No new Turkey-EU talks before December -Sarkozy

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LISBON, Oct 19 (Reuters) French President Nicolas Sarkozy ruled out today extending the scope of Turkey's entry talks with the European Union before December but EU president Portugal said it hoped to widen negotiations by then.

Sarkozy said any new moves would have to await a decision on a special consultative group on the bloc's future and borders.

Sarkozy is opposed to Turkey's EU bid and France has said it has a problem with five of the 35 policy areas, or ''chapters'', into which negotiations are divided. It argues that they assume an outcome of full membership.

At a news conference in Portugal after an EU summit, Sarkozy said any new chapters would have to await a decision to create a group of so-called ''wise persons'' to study Europe's long-term borders.

''There will be no opening of a Turkish chapter in the month of November. All that will be pushed back to December,'' he said.

Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Amado, however, said Portugal hopes new chapters will be opened before year-end.

''I believe a couple of new chapters could be opened until the end of the year,'' Amado, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, told Reuters.

''That means we should not ignore the difficulties that some member states have in dealing with this process but at the same time we should not abruptly interrupt this process.'' Amado said he had not ''identified such a closed position'' on Turkey by France.

EU officials said Sarkozy's move was largely symbolic since there had been no plans to open new talks in November, when the European Commission will publish its annual progress report on Turkey and other candidate countries.

Sarkozy's proposal of a ''wise persons'' group has been regarded by some of Turkey's supporters as a delaying tactic designed to suggest ways of holding back EU enlargement.

European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn this week questioned the usefulness of such a panel and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said yesterday he did not want a panel of has-beens suggesting ways to renege on EU enlargement.

''It is imperative that the group cannot serve as a pretext for blocking parts of previously agreed commitments on enlargement,'' Reinfeldt said.

Sarkozy denied he wanted to go back on positions already adopted by Europe.

''I have made it clear that I am not thinking of reopening institutional debates which have been settled by the adoption of the simplified treaty,'' he said, referring to the treaty to reform EU institutions agreed at the Lisbon summit.

REUTERS RSA RN2352

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