Friction is growing between French President Jacques Chirac and some of his neighbors. At a European Union summit on Mar. 23, Chirac renewed calls for lifting the EU's arms embargo on China, even though other leaders recently backed away from ending the 15-year ban because of U.S. opposition and China's mounting pressure on Taiwan. Chirac also angered Britain by urging repeal of a long-standing arrangement that grants Britain a $5.6 billion annual rebate on its EU budget contribution. At the same time, EU leaders are worried that Chirac's domestic woes could jeopardize Europe's proposed new constitution. Polls show that a majority of French voters may reject the constitution in a May 29 referendum, in what could be a protest vote against Chirac's government.
Edited by Rose Brady