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Blair fails to win support of Eastern EU members for budget

British Prime Minister Tony Blair failed to convince leaders of the four largest new European Union members to back his proposal to cut spending for the 25-nation's next budget. "We are still far from agreement," Hungarian Premier Ferenc Gyurcsány told reporters today in Budapest following a meeting with Blair and prime ministers from Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic. "We don't want an agreement at all costs."
Blair, whose country holds the six-month rotating presidency of the EU until the end of this month, is seeking agreement on the budget for 2007-2013 at a December 15-16 summit after rejecting a proposal made by the Luxembourg presidency in June that would have set the EU budget limit at 1.06% of GDP. Eastern European leaders said the proposal would cut the amount of development aid to help their nations, which joined May 2004. Gyurcsány called for an overhaul of the budget's three main areas, the British rebate, agricultural subsidies and the development aid, simultaneously.