France's Chirac ends state visit with praise for Chilean economic policies

French President Jacques Chirac wrapped up a two-day visit on Sunday by praising Chile's economic policies and riding a French-built subway with the South American nation's President Michelle Bachelet.

"You can be proud," Chirac told a gathering of business leaders in the Chilean capital of Santiago. "Your country has known how to establish its own guidelines to face modernization."

Chirac noted similarities between the economic and social policies of Chile and France, and said his government will continue to support Chile.

The French leader arrived the day before from Brazil for talks with Bachelet. In a joint statement, the two presidents "reaffirmed their commitment to work together for a safer, more prosperous and more just world."

The talks came as the two countries appear close to a deal for Chile to purchase a French satellite for civilian and military use.

Defense Minister Vivianne Blanlot said earlier Saturday that negotiations were "well advanced" and a deal could be struck by mid-July. Some had expected an agreement to be announced during Chirac's visit.

Local media reported that Chile would pay US$40 million (Ђ31 million) for the satellite.

Blanlot, who met with her French counterpart Michele Alliot-Marie, said Latin American nations have no reason for concern about the purchase, noting that countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Colombia already have their own satellites.

Santiago daily El Mercurio said Bachelet "will explain to neighboring countries that two-thirds of the satellite's use would be for civilian purposes."

Chirac also rode with Bachelet along a section of the Santiago subway that was build by a French consortium and inaugurated in February. He was to return to Paris Saturday afternoon, reports AP.

O.Ch.