Source AP ©

Outgoing British leader Blair awaited in France

President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy meets Friday with the outgoing British prime minister, Tony Blair, who is visiting France to touch base with the new leadership and say adieu to President Jacques Chirac.

Blair announced Thursday that he would step down as Britain's premier on June 27.

An agenda for the trip was not announced beyond the fact that Blair would meet separately with Sarkozy and Chirac, who is stepping down after 12 years in power.

Sarkozy, 52, the conservative leader, was elected on Sunday and is to take over the leadership on Wednesday. He has been multiplying international contacts since his election.

He was expected to travel quickly to Berlin for a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He had said during his campaign that, if elected, he would make trips to Berlin and Brussels during his first week in office - a strong signal of his wish to resolve the crisis in the European Union brought on by France's "no" in a 2005 referendum on the bloc's constitution.

Blair drew a big smile in France with his personal congratulations to Sarkozy after the election - in French and on YouTube.

Blair posted a message on the video-sharing site praising Sarkozy as "a strong leader" and saying he was confident Sarkozy "will want to forge a good and close partnership between Britain and France for the good of our two countries, for Europe and the wider world."

France and Britain have found themselves at odds on some EU issues and on the invasion of Iraq, which France disapproved of while Britain supplied troops.

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