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Chirac: U.N. should decide on wars

Chirac held a question-and-answer session with Oxford University students Friday.
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Tension between Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- French President Jacques Chirac continued a fence-mending but at times edgy state visit to Britain Friday by reaffirming that the United Nations should decide on foreign interventions.

"It's not for any given country to consider that a situation is open to stepping in and interfering," he told a question-and-answer session with students at Oxford University, according to the UK's Press Association.

"It's up to the international community to do so and particularly the U.N., which alone has the authority to interfere," he said in remarks apparently aimed at the United States.

The French president -- who backed a U.N. solution over Iraq -- added that if countries took such action of their own accord, it would "throw the door wide open to hosts of reason to wage wars under the guise of legitimate interference."

On Thursday, Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair tried to put differences over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq behind them, telling a joint news conference they both wanted a peaceful and stable future for the country. (Full story)

CNN European Political Editor Robin Oakley called it "glassy smiles and gloss over time."

Oakley said that Chirac and Blair were careful not to inflame their differences over Iraq -- and both made plain their eagerness to do anything they can to revive the Middle East peace process.

But later the French leader took on a harsher tone, warning Blair that his drive to spread democracy across the world alongside U.S. President George W. Bush could be confused with a new colonialism.

In a speech to the International Institute of Strategic Studies, PA reported, Chirac went on to set out his own distinctive view of international relations.

Chirac stressed the importance of dialogue between Europe and "the world's major poles" -- China, India, Brazil, Russia and various trading blocs.

"For although our memory is sometimes short, the peoples submitted to the West's domination in the past have not forgotten and are quick to see a resurgence of imperialism and colonialism in our actions."

On Friday in Oxford, Chirac again pointed to stressed the strength of links between Britain and France. He admitted, PA reported, that there had been "one or two differences" on Iraq, but said the countries have "never worked in closer co-operation" than in the fight against terrorism.

Chirac also focused on Europe's relationship with America. Speaking of the enduring nature of the trans-Atlantic alliance, he said the link is "strong and cannot be challenged by anybody."

"North America and Europe ... I think are predestined to work together because they share history, the same background and values."

Friday morning Chirac laid a wreath at the Windsor Castle tomb of King Edward VII, the British monarch in power when the Anglo-French "Entente Cordiale" was signed 100 years ago.

The wreath of flowers, depicting the red, white and blue of the French flag, marked the centenary of the agreement, signed on April 8, 1904.

The French leader and his wife stayed overnight at Windsor Castle, where the hospitality was lavish.

There was a late-night performance of "Les Miserables" and a black-tie dinner hosted by Queen Elizabeth II.

Guests included Blair and leading figures in arts, fashion and Anglo-French relations. Among the 136 dining in the historic St. George's Hall were Arsenal Football Club manager Arsene Wenger and his wife, designer Nicole Farhi.

Singing star Michael Ball returned for the performance of "Les Miserables," which was staged in the castle's Waterloo Chamber -- named for Britain's most famous victory over the French. It was diplomatically relabeled the "music room" for the night.

The queen had intended to greet Chirac, but his motorcade was delayed and he arrived 20 minutes late.

During dinner, the queen -- dressed in a bright cream-colored dress -- proposed a toast: "To the people of France. Vive l'Entente Cordiale."

In a brief speech, she said the century-old alliance was "above all about the people of our two countries getting on with each other and working with a common purpose."

Chirac then rose to say in a five-minute speech in French that he was "deeply moved" by the queen's invitation.

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