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EU offers Irish guarantees on reform treaty

Ireland's Prime Minister Brian Cowen arrives on the second day of an EU heads of state summit in Brussels June 19, 2009. REUTERS/Sebastien Pirlet

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union agreed on Friday to offer the Irish government legal guarantees on national sovereignty intended to help secure voters’ backing for the EU’s Lisbon reform treaty, EU diplomats said.

The accord will give the guarantees the status of a treaty protocol -- an Irish demand -- but also explicitly state that they will not affect the ratification of the reform project in other EU countries, overcoming a British concern.

“Deal done,” said an EU diplomat at summit talks in Brussels.

The agreement was struck between Britain, Ireland and the Czech Republic, which holds the EU presidency, and was to be presented to other leaders from the 27-state bloc for their approval, a presidency source said.

The guarantees are intended to assure Irish voters who rejected the treaty in a referendum last year that Ireland’s policy on matters ranging from military neutrality to abortion will be unaffected by the treaty.

Dublin is expected to hold a new referendum by early October on the treaty, which would reform decision making in the EU and requires the backing of all member states to take effect.

Reporting by Darren Ennis and Jan Lopatka, writing by Timothy Heritage, editing by Mark John