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Chirac faces British press criticism for comments during visit
Updated: 2004-11-19 21:11

French President Jacques Chirac faced at times scathing criticism from British newspapers for stressing his continued differences with London over Iraq during a visit to Britain.

Chirac had at times adopted "a manner calculated to embarrass his host", British Prime Minister Tony Blair, The Times newspaper said in an editorial comment.

While Chirac and Blair used a joint press conference on Thursday to make a unified call for stability in Iraq, the French leader also issued an implicit rebuff to both Britain and the United States in a speech earlier in the day.

Chirac, who opposed last year's US-led, British-backed war in Iraq, repeated his opinion that the world was a more dangerous place in the aftermath of the invasion.

"You cannot say, credibly, that the situation has significantly improved," Chirac said in his address to a London think tank, also calling for recognition of a "multipolar and interdependent" world.

Chirac's talk of multipolarism talk was fine, The Times said, but "it would be useful if he had clarified whether this meant anything more than giving France a bigger megaphone".

Some of his other comments, which appeared to ridicule the United States, were "not acceptable", the right-of-centre paper said.

"His words, as so often, are grandstanding for a European and domestic audience," the editorial said, while noting that France is "more than M. Chirac" and looking forwards to his possible replacement by French finance minister and presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy.

Britain "should politely ignore the bad manners of France's president and wish M. Sarkozy godspeed", The Times said.

The tabloid Sun newspaper was -- as tends to be its way -- considerably more blunt.

Britain's best-selling daily paper, a long-time foe of Chirac which dubbed him "Le Worm" for his opposition to the war in Iraq, called France's reverent treatment of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who died last week in a Paris hospital, "nauseating".

"So why should we roll out the red carpet for Chirac?" the paper asked.

"Chirac is a two-faced, double-dealing, arrogant, selfish crook. At least he's going home today."

The only other newspaper to deal with Chirac's visit in its editorial pages, the left-leaning Guardian, was more polite, saying Chirac had been "on sparkling form".

It also stressed the many areas of agreement between London and Paris.

While "divided on how Europe and an unassailably powerful America can work together, they agree on the urgent need to do more to tackle climate change, African poverty, nuclear proliferation, the Middle East, and the rise of China and India", it said.

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