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EU: Candidate Countries Consider Chirac's Remarks

Brussels, 18 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Several countries set to join the European Union next year are criticizing comments made by French President Jacques Chirac yesterday. Chirac said at a meeting of EU heads yesterday that candidate countries that have gone on record as supporting the U.S. position on Iraq were exhibiting "irresponsible behavior" characteristic of a poor upbringing.

The EU meeting yesterday ended with its leaders demanding more time for UN weapons inspectors. They also warned Iraq it has one "last chance" to disarm peacefully.

Today in Brussels, EU leaders are meeting with representatives from candidate countries to ask them to endorse the EU's position on Iraq.

Upon arrival at the talks, Romanian President Ion Iliescu downplayed Chirac's comments, saying they were a personal reaction. "We consider it being some personal reaction, but we remain, I think, very good friends. President Chirac is a good friend of Romania. He is a good democrat. We have a long tradition of relations between Romania and France, and it is more important than some personal reaction to a specific moment," Iliescu said.

But Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld, whose country supports the U.S. position on Iraq, said Chirac should treat Poland's foreign policy decisions with respect.

In Sofia today, Bulgarian Prime Minister Simeon Saxecoburggotski said the French president's comments require "no comment." He said people should not "overreact."