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Fury over Czech delay

EU leaders are said to be furious that the Czech Republic is planning to delay signing the Lisbon Treaty for up to six months even if Ireland votes 'Yes' next month.

British Conservative leader David Cameron has pledged to call a referendum if his party wins the next election and if Lisbon remains a live issue.

Although Britain has already ratified the treaty, the prospect of a referendum horrifies most EU leaders because of the strong vein of euroscepticism in the UK.

The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, who helped to draw up the treaty after the French and Dutch voted against its predecessor, the EU constitution, warned Prague that it faced "consequences" if it did not swiftly follow an Irish 'Yes' with its own ratification.

The threat came after a private warning from the Czech caretaker prime minister, Jan Fischer, to his EU counterparts at their summit in Brussels last Thursday.

Mr Fischer said that his country's president, Vaclav Klaus, was planning to have a group of loyal senators in the Czech Upper House refer the treaty back to the Czech constitutional court for a second time, which could delay ratification for between three and six months.

Tensions are running high among EU leaders over whether Ireland will vote in favour of the treaty on October 2.

They are also desperate that the momentum of a 'Yes' is not lost on the eurosceptic Czech and Polish presidents, the final two signatures required for EU ratification.

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