Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

All Very Cordiale; WARM SMILES (FROM THE MEN ANYWAY) BUT CHIRAC STICKS TO HIS GUNS ON IRAQ

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

All Very Cordiale; WARM SMILES (FROM THE MEN ANYWAY) BUT CHIRAC STICKS TO HIS GUNS ON IRAQ

Article excerpt

Byline: VALENTINE LOW;PAUL WAUGH

THE camera never lies, and neither of course do politicians. So, judging by this picture of Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac posing outside Downing Street at the start of the French president's official visit, the Entente Cordiale is alive and well, Tony and Jacques are the best of mates and as for all that stuff about Iraq - well, perhaps he didn't really mean it.

Only the mildest froideur on the faces of their wives suggested that when the two leaders got behind the door of No 10 they might have a full and frank exchange of views.

Everything was casual bonhomie for the official photocall, though it is true Mr Chirac was unaccountably late, and yes, it did rain on his parade. Quite why the president chose to keep Mr Blair waiting for 20 minutes in the drizzle before his welcome ceremony was not immediately apparent.

As for the somewhat inclement weather - well it is November.

This is England and that is how things are here.

The visit, marking the 100th anniversary of the Entente Cordiale, came decked with the usual panoply of pomp for such gettogethers.

The Irish Guards formed a guard of honour. Alongside was their French equivalent, the First Regiment of La Garde Republicaine, with a band to play Mr Chirac a jaunty version of the French national anthem.

They did, however, have a certain amount of waiting to do. So too did Mr Blair and the Duke of Edinburgh, who exchanged pleasantries as they waited patiently for the president to get through the traffic, or whatever it was that was holding him up.

After a while they decided that hanging around in the rain was not such a good idea, and took shelter in an archway.

When Mr Chirac finally arrived, it was all friendly goodwill between the three men: a warm smile for Mr Blair, a familiar hand on Prince Philip's arm as they shook hands. …

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