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EU Leaders Reach Agreement on New Treaty

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It was clear at the opening of the summit Thursday that agreement on the roadmap was not going to come easy.

Merkel spent Friday morning meeting with some leaders one-on-one. She and other leaders huddled behind closed doors with Kaczynski, offering Poland various compromise proposals on the voting system.

As the talks wore on, Merkel sought to put pressure on Poland to sign onto her proposal by saying Germany would move forward with negotiations on the roadmap _ even without Poland's blessing.

Warsaw finally agreed to a French-German suggestion late Friday night, according to Sarkozy's spokesman.

As the discussions and compromises ran into Saturday, other nations came forth with their own lists of complaints. Leaders hunkered down and went through the mandate, eventually coming to an agreement shortly before 5 a.m.

"It went on for a long time but we achieved what we wanted," Merkel said at a briefing to announce the agreement.

She said the drafting of the treaty will begin in coming months, with ratification by the end of 2007. The goal is to have the rulebook in place by 2009.

"What this means for us is that we are moving out of stoppage," she said. "We managed to get all 27 states on board in the end."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the leaders complete the toughest part of the process.

"I don't think there is anything that can derail the process now," he said. "The rest is drafting."

He said all of Britain's "red lines" had been met.

"The most important thing here is that the constitutional treaty was put to one side. This deal gives us a chance to move on," he said.

Sarkozy said it was a key achievement to negotiate a compromise with Poland.

"After all, we didn't want to leave the biggest country in eastern Europe behind," he said. "We didn't move ahead with 26, but with 27."


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