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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

French Face Deadline in Beef Feud

PARIS -- France, facing a threat of legal action from the European Commission, is insisting that it shares with Britain a common goal of ending a rancorous row over British beef.

But French President Jacques Chirac said after meeting European Commission President Romano Prodi late Thursday that France was demanding guarantees before it would agree to resuming British beef imports.

"To reach this solution, we need a certain number of guarantees ... the experts will meet again tomorrow. I want these final, indispensable guarantees to be agreed. These guarantees are essential for us," Chirac said.

Prodi said he hoped for an agreement over the weekend, saying the commission would do "everything in its power to find a solution."

The European Commission earlier warned France it faced legal action next week if it maintained its unilateral ban on British beef as the search for a negotiated solution to the cross-Channel row continued.

The decision on whether to initiate proceedings will be taken by the 20-member "college" of European commissioners when they meet in Strasbourg, France next Tuesday.

More than half of them will have to support the move.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, under attack at home for his government's handling of the issue, spoke on the telephone for 30 minutes on Thursday with his French counterpart, Lionel Jospin.

A source close to Jospin said the will existed in Paris and London to reach an accord. "There is a common will to find an agreement. We will keep working," the source said.

No ministerial meetings were planned but French and British experts were expected to discuss the beef row in Brussels,Belgium on Friday.

Britain said it shared the desire to resolve the dispute.

Blair and Jospin held what was described as a "perfectly friendly" telephone conversation but failed to achieve a breakthrough.

Blair's spokesman said French demands for extra safety guarantees were "not on."