French president Jacques Chirac pledged to help fund a new European internet search engine to rival Google and Yahoo as he railed against what he sees as the threat of Anglo-Saxon cultural imperialism.

In a speech in Reims, Mr Chirac said: "We're engaged in a global competition for technological supremacy. In France, in Europe, it's our power that's at stake."

Mr Chirac's intention is to provide forgivable loans to a Franco-German "multimedia search engine for the internet" being developed by French group Thomson and Deutsche Telekom.

The plans reflect Mr Chirac's often-expressed concern about the omnipresence of US culture in French society. The government is already pushing to create an online digital library to rival one planned by Google.

Dubbed "Project Quaero", from the Latin word meaning "to seek", the programme will be fleshed out in more detail next month.

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