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European Union leaders have agreed to give Ireland time to digest the No vote to the EU's reform treaty after Taoiseach Brian Cowen said it was too soon to suggest a way out.

After Britain raised EU spirits by ratifying the treaty in parliament, most of the other eight countries still to endorse it vowed to go ahead.

But delays in the Czech Republic and Poland cast further doubt on a pact backers say is vital to overhaul the bloc's institutions.

European Parliament President Hans Gert Poettering appealed for the next EU summit in October to plot the way forward so a solution can be implemented in time for European elections in June 2009.

But Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin played down any prospect of a rescue package so soon.

He said that the Government would not anticipate that there would be solutions on the table in October but it is an opportunity to make a progress report.

Earlier Mr Cowen and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Ireland should not be pushed into a corner on the treaty. Both ducked questions about the prospects of persuading the Irish to vote again.

The summit convened as the ratification process continued, with Britain becoming the 19th of the 27 EU states to ratify the document.

Arriving at the summit, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said it is important for the EU to respond to the Irish no vote in respectful and calm manner.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso has said he agrees with Mr Cowen that the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty by the Irish electorate is not a vote against Europe.

Speaking at a news conference in Brussels, Mr Barroso said EU leaders accepted that the Irish No vote must be respected.

He added that they also agreed that the rights of other member states to reach their own conclusion on the Treaty must be respected too.

Mr Barroso was speaking after he met Mr Cowen in advance of today's summit. The Taoiseach is being accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin and Minister of State for European Affairs Dick Roche.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier said that the EU must find a common solution after Ireland's rejection of the Lisbon Treaty. Speaking in the German parliament, Ms Merkel said member states must ensure that treaties in the EU are brought forward unanimously.

Yesterday, Minister for Health Mary Harney said that when the Taoiseach goes to Brussels to reflect the will of the people, it is traditional that he would receive the support of all parties in Government.

But Minister Harney told the Dáil she had heard that efforts were being made to 'gazump' what is going to happen there.

Last night, the British parliament passed legislation to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. President Nicolas Sarkozy has thanked British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for showing 'political courage' and ratifying the treaty after Ireland rejected it.

Meeting just hours before the EU summit, Mr Sarkozy said Britain and France agreed to work together to avoid a crisis over Ireland's No to the Lisbon Treaty.

Mr Sarkozy and Mr Brown held a working lunch today in Paris. Mr Sarkozy said Mr Brown had acted with commitment and much strength. He said the talks with Mr Brown had yielded many areas of convergence on the next steps for the EU.

President Sarkozy said that they want to avoid a crisis in Europe, 'we want to unite Europe and we want to in particular listen to Europeans who are asking us to take concrete, immediate measures to protect them and to improve their daily lives.

For his part, Mr Brown thanked Mr Sarkozy for his leadership in Europe and said Britain would give its full support to the French agenda for the EU presidency beginning in July. He said it will be very important for the next stage of development of the EU.