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The London European Conference: Danes delay next move until after France votes

DENMARK'S foreign minister yesterday quashed reports that his government is preparing for a new referendum to reverse the damaging Danish vote in June against the Maastricht treaty.

Speaking a day after reports that the Danish government was preparing a question for a second referendum, Uffe Ellemann-Jensen said: 'I know this has been said. But nothing has changed at all. We shall wait to see what happens in France, and what happens in Britain. Then, in a slow way, we shall consider what to do next. Nothing is certain yet.'

Hopes of a new Danish initiative had risen on Sunday night after Poul Schlueter, the Danish prime minister, gave support in a television interview to the idea of a new Maastricht referendum in Denmark in the first half of 1993. Mr Schlueter had insisted that such a poll 'would have to be held on a new basis other than that of the Maastricht treaty itself'.

His remarks had been interpreted as a hint that the government was ready either to draft a new referendum question, or to suggest changes it would seek to be made to the treaty in an attempt to make it more acceptable to Danish citizens.

John Major gave comfort to the Danes yesterday by reiterating Britain's refusal to isolate Denmark because it has failed to ratify Maastricht. 'If Denmark and France, or any other member states, say no, then all must think again,' he said. 'There can be no question of leaving one member behind. Britain would not be party to such an agreement.'

Mr Ellemann-Jensen spoke just before delivering a spirited defence of the Nato alliance to yesterday's London conference.

But the glittering array of politicians, bureaucrats, economists and business leaders from all over the world spent little time trying to address the problems posed for the European Community by Denmark's rejection of the treaty.

Legally, the new European arrangements agreed at Maastricht last year cannot come into effect without each of the EC's 12 member states signing. Even the most radical options now being canvassed in Brussels cannot be carried out if the Danish government withholds its blessing.

Mr Ellemann-Jensen's comments show that despite its earlier worries, the Danish government now appears ready to wait calmly to see whether the treaty is ratified in France, Britain, Germany and other member states before it feels any pressure to clarify its position.