Richard North, 29/04/2004  

Sources: Financial Times, AP, AFP and others

Despite expectations that he would announce a referendum on the EU constitution today, Chirac resisted the pressure, saying that any decision was “premature”. He told a press conference in the Elysee Palace that he would not be rushed into a decision. "For me, it is premature to decide on one or the other option [to ratify the constitution]”.

He refused to comment on Blair’s decsion to hold a referendum but, echoing Gicard’s statements in this morning’s Today interview, he added, "I don't imagine that England could find itself in the situation of having to leave Europe."

Hedging his bets for the future, he noted that “The British are in a different situation,” pointing out they did not have a written constitution. Nations can either hold a referendum on the constitution or allow their parliaments to decide, he said.

He called for a strong vote in the Euro-elections to give French euro-deputies the mandate to defend the country's interests at the EU's parliament (as if they needed any urging – ed).

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