The US and European Union sought to calm tempers on Sunday after an acrimonious breakdown in talks left in doubt the future of negotiations about government subsidies for Boeing and Airbus. Weeks of delicate negotiations between Robert Zoellick, the outgoing US trade representative, and Peter Mandelson, EU trade commissioner, exploded on Friday night, after a tense, hour-long teleconference.

The two sides accused each other of breaking off the talks, with the US saying Mr Mandelson had ?terminated? the call.

The acrimony could be measured by the personal nature of the outbursts. One EU official spoke of the ?level of aggression? shown towards the European side and likened Richard Mills, the spokesman for Mr Zoellick, to a ?pit bull?. ?Commissioner Mandelson is quite a skilled communicator,? a US official said. Yesterday the two parties indicated their readiness to maintain a dialogue, with pre-conditions, after a cooling-off period.

Mr Mills said the US was willing to extend the terms of its January 11 agreement to hold talks to resolve the dispute surrounding aircraft subsidies beyond an agreed April 11 deadline. The agreement set a framework for the talks and provided for a freeze on subsidies and legislation. ?The core issue remains: is the EU willing to give up launch aid?? Mr Mills said. He added that the EU ?keeps wandering away? from the table as it was set on January 11.

On Friday night, the US warned it would return to the World Trade Organisation to try to force an end to subsidies for Airbus unless the EU agreed to maintain a standstill that has barred new European government launch aid for the Airbus A350, a competitor to Boeing's long-range 787 jet.

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