LONDON, March 12 (UPI) -- Britain's prime minister and the president of France have joined in accusing the United States of "protectionism" over a $53 billion aerospace contract.
Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy alleged the Pentagon was favoring American company Boeing over a European consortium bidding to build refueling tanker aircraft for the U.S. Air Force, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.
The consortium withdrew from the bidding this week, the newspaper said.
"This is not the right way for the United States to treat its European allies," Sarkozy said in a joint news conference with Brown. "If they want to be spearheading the fight against protectionism, they shouldn't be setting the wrong example of protectionism."
Brown also expressed his disappointment.
"We believe in free trade, we believe in open markets, we believe in open competition."
The news conference took a sudden turn as two reporters questioned Sarkozy about recent rumors of marital problems, the BBC reported.
"I certainly don't have time to deal with these ridiculous rumors," Sarkozy responded, "not even half a fraction of a second."
Brown quickly called an end to the news conference, the BBC said.