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EU: British, French, German Leaders Meet Ahead Of Key Summit

Brussels, 12 December 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The leaders of the European Union's three biggest countries met for talks this morning ahead of a key EU summit that will try to agree on the bloc's first constitution. Reports say British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder are meeting in Brussels to try and break the deadlock over the constitution.

A key sticking point is the refusal by Poland and Spain to accept changes in voting powers sought by France and Germany.

Britain, meanwhile, is fighting to prevent Brussels from having the final say in issues ranging from foreign policy to taxation.

Yesterday, Blair said talks at the two-day summit will be tough. "There is no doubt at all that it is going to be a tough negotiation. Europe is becoming a Europe of 25," he said. "It's a huge change for Europe, and we've got to make sure that we take the right decisions for the economy, for security, that aren't just in the British interests, although that's obviously very important for me, but also make Europe work effectively."

Correspondents say if no agreement is reached by the deadline tomorrow, talks will likely continue on Sunday (14 December).