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FRANCE `DROPS A BOMB’ AT EU MEETING

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Leaders of the 15 European Union nations came to this Mediterranean resort Friday with the intent of talking in a relaxed way about the future, but controversy was awaiting them.

Helicopters were still chuffing into the Formentor Hotel on the island of Mallorca when a leading French parliamentarian announced France would set off another nuclear test explosion sometime in the next 10 days.That was poor timing, in the view of many. President Jacques Chirac's decision to resume nuclear testing in French Polynesia continues to draw worldwide protest and has unsettled Paris' allies in Europe.

"It is dangerous that a country like France will go on testing," said Swedish Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson. "There might be countries just on the verge of developing their own weapons and say `let's go ahead.' "

Sweden, he said, "will of course again bring up the nuclear issue one way or another" at the Mallorca meeting.

Further focusing attention on the issue was a Greenpeace protest ship anchored just offshore here, under the watchful eye of a Spanish naval frigate and two police speedboats.

The two-day summit was officially billed as an opportunity for the heads of state and government to reflect informally on the future of the European Union, a future that could see the EU expand to 28 or 30 members.

The basis for the reflection is the 1991 Maastricht Treaty, an agreement that opens the door for a common European foreign and security policy as well as a single European currency. The treaty is scheduled for review next year. The idea is to widen the EU's powers, streamline decisionmaking and get the EU ready for expansion, closer cooperation and the single currency.

The Spanish hosts were anxious to keep the summit on the rails, however.

"What heads of state and government need to do is exchange views," said Carlos Westendorp, Spain's European affairs minister.

He also tried to head off a budding controversy sparked by German Finance Minister Theo Waigel, who on Wednesday said Italy, and perhaps France, Belgium and the Netherlands, might not meet the economic criteria necessary to participate in the single currency by the 1999 deadline.

Waigel's remarks upset other EU members because they suggest Germany does not take other countries' economic policies seriously.