Delors angered by attacks over Gatt

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The Independent Online
BRUSSELS - Jacques Delors, President of the EC Commission, yesterday attacked Michael Heseltine for implying he was blocking a Gatt deal. The outburst showed how tempers are fraying as the hoped-for breakthrough in the world trade talks and fails to materialise, writes Sarah Lambert.

'I am primus inter pares in the Commission,' Mr Delors said in London after a summit with Eastern European leaders. 'Tell that to Mr Heseltine.' The President of the Board of Trade said Mr Delors had 'divided loyalties' over the Gatt, since his native France fears a deal would hurt its farming community. But Mr Delors emphasised he was one of four Commissioners involved in negotiations, and that the Council of Ministers - national representatives - had given them their mandate.

Mr Delors is attracting an ever- more hostile press, deepening the impressions of a rift within the Commission. His spokesman, denied yesterday that Mr Delors was reluctant to conclude a trade agreement.

EC officials continued to express optimism that a deal was imminent. Ray MacSharry, the EC Commissioner who must, with the US Agriculture Secretary, Ed Madigan, resolve the problems on agriculture that is the key to an accord, was last night still in Brussels. He left a Luxembourg meeting on Tuesday, confident that there was enough progress between the two sides to warrant a trip across the Atlantic.

Mr MacSharry reportedly has a bag packed, but the enthusiasm of his associates that a deal was within striking distance and could be done in principal before next Tuesday's election is markedly more muted than it was at the start of the week.