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Cordiale Nic and Dave show's good for Wylfa; EURO ILL-FEELING FORGOTTEN ON DAY OF BIG AGREEMENTS.

Byline: SAM LISTER

DAVID CAMERON indicated yesterday that he backed Nicolas Sarkozy's presidential re-election bid despite months of tense relations between the pair.

Following wide-ranging talks in Paris - which included a landmark agreement to co-operate on civil nuclear energy - the British Prime Minister praised the president for his "leadership and courage".

But he declined to follow German chancellor Angela Merkel's pledge to help him out on the campaign trail, joking he was unlikely to help the French premier in next month's poll.

Mr Cameron said: "[The summit] has given me the chance to wish my friend well in the battle he has ahead."

He added: "I admire Nicolas Sarkozy's leadership and courage and I think he's achieved great things with his country and clearly the future is an issue for the French people.

"I make those points but I'm not altogether sure that if I went on the campaign trail in France they might have the effect my friend would want them to have."

The two men, backed up by British cabinet ministers and their French counterparts, agreed to co-operate on military planning, defence procurement and nuclear power at the UK-France summit.

Energy Secretary Ed Davey said the new nuclear plants would create highly-skilled job opportunities across the country.

"There are plans for new nuclear in Somerset, Suffolk, Cumbria, North Wales [Wylfa, on Anglesey] and Gloucestershire," said Mr Davey.

During a press conference at the Elyse Palace the premiers went to great lengths to show relations were warm after terse rhetoric following Mr Cameron's decision to employ Britain's veto on a new treaty to stabilise the eurozone last year.

Mr Sarkozy even appeared now to defend Mr Cameron's decision not to commit the UK to the agreement back in December, saying that he may have done the same thing had he been in his position.

He added: "We have had divergences of views but perhaps, had I been in David Cameron's position, I would have defended Britain's interests in exactly the same way as he has. What I can tell you is that there has never been a personal opposition between us. A head of state is there precisely to defend the interests of his nation, to lead others to understand how vital those interests are."

Both men acknowledged that they have had differences in recent months over the European Union but Mr Sarkozy insisted "there are more convergences than divergences".

"I have always been of the view that Europe needs Britain, and, together with David Cameron, we are putting together working methods whereby we are going to understand one another's red lines and come up with a greater degree of convergence," said Mr Sarkozy.

Yesterday's summit comes on the first anniversary of the outbreak of the uprising in Libya which eventually led to the toppling of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, with the help of an international military force in which the UK and France played leading roles.

Among the decisions signed off yesterday was an agreement to accelerate plans to create a joint control and command centre for future military operations.

That would put in place a rapidly deployable headquarters with a formalised command structure bringing together UK and French forces following joint working in Libya.

The two leaders also agreed to push ahead with the next phase of plans to build a new generation of pilotless "fighter drone" aircraft.

The bilateral programme will be worked on by Britain's BAE and France's Dassault - former rivals on the Typhoon project.

Mr Cameron said: "I don't think that there has been closer French-British co-operation at any time since the Second World War, not just in Libya but also on the vital issues of Syria, Iran, Somalia and defence co-operation."

Britain and France also signed a landmark agreement to co-operate on civil nuclear energy, paving the way for the construction of a new generation of power plants in the UK.

The deal between Rolls-Royce and Areva would see 1,500 new jobs in the UK and pounds 100m invested across the South West and a new factory in Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

The factory will produce components for the first new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset, as part of a pounds 400m deal with French energy giant Areva, supporting 600 jobs in the company and 600 in its supply chain.

THE FINEST IN FRENCH CUISINE BRITISH ministers feasted on the finest French cuisine during their working lunch at the Elyse Palace in Paris yesterday.

Prime Minister David Cameron and French president Nicolas Sarkozy led a round-table discussion following morning talks.

First course at the lunch was beef cheek terrine with foie gras, followed by chicken with pasta. That was topped off with French favourite mille feuille with hazelnut ice cream.

They were joined by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, Foreign Secretary William Hague, and newly-installed Energy Secretary Ed Davey, who had each been in talks with their French counterparts.

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* David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy during their joint news conference at the Elyse Palace in Paris yesterday
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Feb 18, 2012
Words:862
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