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Budget clash leaves EU summit close to failure; tensions high as 27 leaders meet in Brussels

Published: Fri, November 23, 2012 @ 1:42 p.m.

Budget clash leaves EU summit close to failure; tensions high as 27 leaders meet in Brussels

BRUSSELS (AP) — The prospect of failure hangs over a European Union leaders’ summit intended to lay out the 27-country bloc’s long-term spending plans.

While heavyweights like Britain and France are pulling in opposite directions, smaller members are threatening to veto a deal to make themselves heard.

Negotiators will try to navigate the myriad demands on the second day of the meeting today. A tense first session left many observers predicting leaders will need more time to bridge their differences over the bloc’s spending priorities for the years to come.

“I have my doubts that we will come to an agreement,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said early today as she left the first day of the talks, which could stretch into Saturday.

The EU budget primarily funds programs to help farming and spur growth in the bloc’s less developed countries. In financial terms, it amounts to only about 1 percent of the EU’s gross domestic product, but the real significance of the budget is that it lays bare the balance of power between the bloc’s members.

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