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CHOCO
Dec 1st, 2002, 12:28 AM
Blair's birthday gift for Chirac helps to heal rift

An $825 'Churchill' fountain pen seems to have paved the way for a Franco-British summit after they fell out in October

LONDON - British Prime Minister Tony Blair's decision to give French President Jacques Chirac a £300 (S$825) fountain pen as an early birthday present seems to have made just the right impression, as the countries have agreed to hold a Franco-British summit on Feb 4.

The two leaders were due to meet on Dec 3 but the summit was cancelled after they fell out in October at an EU summit in Brussels.

The newly scheduled meeting will take place in the French northern coastal resort town of Le Touquet.

British media reports said the two leaders spoke via the phone on Friday, during which Mr Blair wished Mr Chirac a happy birthday. Their conversation came a week after Mr Blair's patch-up attempts.

Mr Blair gave Mr Chirac a magnificent 'Churchill' fountain pen on Nov 22 as a surprise early birthday present.

The pen had Mr Chirac's name engraved on a gold band.

Apart from sending the pen, Mr Blair also praised Mr Chirac in a column he wrote in Paris Match magazine.

He said Mr Chirac was a 'great man in every sense of the term, and he knows perfectly well how to combine the values of democracy and the role that France must play in the world'.

'I respect that,' he said.

Mr Blair even joked in the Thursday column, saying: 'As I have good reason to believe, Jacques Chirac is not the type to become a calm 70-year-old.'

The cross-channel spat between the two leaders was caused by a bad-tempered exchange on how to reform the European Union's costly farm policy, and how to pay for EU enlargement.

Tensions between Paris and London had mounted after France struck a deal with Germany on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), one of the most contentious issues in EU expansion.

At one point, Mr Chirac reportedly told Mr Blair: 'You have been very rude.'

France postponed the traditional year-end bilateral summit, but offered to reschedule it for early 2003.

Both sides tried to play down the exchange, but the media in both countries gave the story front-page billing.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw then made a warm statement recalling the 'huge affection' between the two nations.

The pen's cost, meanwhile, has raised some eyebrows in Britain.

But a Downing Street spokesman told The Telegraph of London that the Prime Minister was entitled to buy presents for other leaders using public funds when it was deemed appropriate.

The spokesman did not specify which budget was used for such gifts. --AFP,AP

King Lindsay
Dec 1st, 2002, 01:19 AM
How old is Mr Blair?

Maybe Dubya should send Saddam a nice fountain pen. Could save us all a very costly war.

Rae Q.
Dec 1st, 2002, 01:30 AM
Hey Choco! :wavey: Kinda funky that this pen is gonna like smooth it all over and stuff. I swear politics is such a weird thing. :eek:

CHOCO
Dec 1st, 2002, 01:53 AM
Rae - that's an excellent point. Pen diplomacy beats the alternative. Congrats to Blair and Chirac for ironing out their differences over a pen. :)

CHOCO
Dec 1st, 2002, 11:04 AM
:)

CHOCO
Dec 1st, 2002, 01:54 PM
Who knew that pen diplomacy would go so far. :)

Bezz
Dec 1st, 2002, 01:59 PM
It just shows how easy the french are brought into line, schroeder must own the 'bic' factory.