Chirac speaks out on differences over Iraq ahead of Blair meeting

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The war in Iraq has not made the world a safer place, Jacques Chirac, the French President, declared last night on the eve of a visit to Britain during which he will hold talks with Tony Blair.

The war in Iraq has not made the world a safer place, Jacques Chirac, the French President, declared last night on the eve of a visit to Britain during which he will hold talks with Tony Blair.

Downing Street fended off a pre-emptive strike from M. Chirac which threatened to scupper attempts for the two leaders to put on a united front when they hold a joint press conference in London today. The French President told the Newsnight programme last night: "There's no doubt that there has been an increase in terrorism and one of the origins of that has been the situation in Iraq. I'm not at all sure that one can say the world is safer."

M. Chirac also suggested that Britain's strong support for the United States had brought it few dividends.

Mr Blair's official spokesman said: "President Chirac has his view, the Prime Minister has his view, but what that does not exclude them doing is discussing the many areas inside Europe and outside Europe where they have agreed obligations."

Although they will agree to disagree on Iraq, British officials are hoping for more harmonious discussions on defence co-operation, the Middle East and plans to combat climate change and poverty in Africa when Britain holds the presidency of the G8 countries from January.

M. Chirac's visit is part of the celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the Entente Cordiale between Britain and France. M. Chirac will also meet the Queen at Windsor Castle and make a speech.

* More than 3,800 civilians were killed in Iraq in the six months to October this year, the Government said yesterday after Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, rejected the figures from a study published in The Lancet last month.

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