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Apart from the slim concession of allowing Metropolitan Area Networks in major cities, the German telecommunications market remains totally closed to foreigners, but the ability to argue from a position of acute weakness as if it were one of strength is a strong German characteristic, and so executives of Deutsche Telekom AG, in Washington for talks with the US government, on Wednesday sharply criticised the European Commission for delaying approval of its global alliance with France Telecom and Sprint Corp. Telekom management board chairman Ron Sommer and supervisory board chairman Rolf-Dieter Leister said they were confident of getting US approval for the three-way alliance – which even given the sycophancy in Washington towards all things German these days still sounds like a very tall order – and insisted that approval was being held up by Brussels, where the Commission was taking too long to decide. Sommer and Leister met US Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and Reed Hundt, head of the Federal Communications Commission, and were due to meet US Trade Representative Mickey Kantor yesterday. They described the talks not as negotiations but as an effort to convince US officials that Europe was serious about opening its telecommunications market – a cause that suffered a sharp setback this week as France began backpeddling furiously on France Telecom privatisation. That is now expected to go ahead in 1997 because chairman Marcel Roulet unexpectedly gained some ground in his talks with telecommunications minister Francois Fillon, but the proposals are still extremely vague, and the government says only that it would submit a report on company reforms in early September and send a draft law to parliament in the spring of 1996. Until that has actually been passed into law, it is hard to see that any progress at all can be made on moving forward with the three-way alliance, and that means that Sprint, in considerable need of cash to pursue its cable plans, will now have to wait for well over another year.

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CBR Staff Writer

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