Schroder reaffirms French alliance

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The Independent Online
JACQUES CHIRAC, the French President, and Gerhard Schroder, the German Chancellor-elect, reassured each other yesterday that the two old allies remained close and were in broad agreement on the future of the European Union.

"Our relationship is going to be long and no doubt fruitful," Mr Chirac said after their two-hour luncheon meeting.

Mr Schroder, on his first foreign trip since defeating Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrats in Sunday's election, was in Paris to reassure the French that romance was still alive in their relationship.

However, preparations for a summit on the future of Europe were in confusion yesterday because of uncertainty about whether Mr Schroder will attend. He may not hold formal office by the time European leaders convene at Portschach in Austria on 24 and 25 October, making it technically difficult for him to represent Germany at the summit, which has been billed as his introduction to the international stage.

Under German law the Federal Parliament must meet, at the latest within 30 days of the election, to vote in a new Chancellor. The parliament could meet on 20 and 21 October, but that is dependent on successful coalition negotiations between Mr Schroder's SPD and his favoured partners, the Greens.