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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chirac Urges Britain to Full EU Role

LONDON -- French President Jacques Chirac urged Britain on Wednesday to play a full part in building European unity and hoped it would be a founding member of a single currency scheduled for 1999.

Chirac was addressing both houses of parliament following talks with Prime Minister John Major when he pledged France's support for a partial lifting of a crippling European Union ban on British beef exports. Europe dominated the talks at Major's Downing Street residence, just as it did Chirac's speech in the glittering surroundings of the Royal Gallery of the House of Lords.

Chirac, on the second day of a state visit, implicitly acknowledged growing hostility in Britain to closer European integration by saying France was just as determined to preserve its national identity.

He paid tribute to the "strength of character" and "courage in adversity" of the British people but said the future demanded ever closer cooperation among nations within the European Union, which could not fulfill its potential without Britain.

"A strong, influential Europe that is capable of playing a full role in the world is a Europe in which the United Kingdom makes its voice heard," Chirac said.

Although cooperation between Bonn and Paris would remain decisive in the development of Europe, Britain's participation and Anglo-French friendship were also vital.

Chirac said France and Britain should build on their cooperation, especially in the diplomatic and military fields, to build a "global partnership."

The starting point should be cooperation within Europe.

Proclaiming that the European ideal was now deeply rooted in the young generations of both countries, Chirac applauded Britain's decision to join the European Community 25 years ago and appealed to it not to turn the clock back.

Grasping the nettle of the single currency, which is anathema to right-wingers in Major's ruling Conservative party, Chirac said he hoped Britain would not exercise its right to opt out of the project.

He reaffirmed France's determination to sign up for the single currency on time in 1999, even though the European Commission was expected to release new economic forecasts Wednesday suggesting that both France and Germany would fail to meet the tough economic eligibility criteria.

"France will be there when monetary union goes ahead. I would like to reaffirm here my determination to stick to the timetable that has been laid down," he said.

Chirac said the crisis caused by the EU's ban on British beef exports, imposed March 27 because of new evidence that mad cow disease can be transmitted to humans, was a catastrophe that could not be resolved without Europe.

He assured Britain of France's "solidarity" in the search for a solution.