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Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's dancing chief exec, parachuted into Europe yesterday to ask Competition Commissioner Mario Monti to take a merciful view of the software giant.

The four-hour meeting did not end in agreement. The European Commission will officially announce its decision next week, but it is widely believed to want to force Microsoft to offer PC makers a version of Windows without Media Player and to levy a big fine on the company.

Both sides confirmed talks had happened and were continuing but gave no further details. The Commission will release its full findings on 24 March.

Ballmer was accompanied by Microsoft's general counsel Brad Smith.

Microsoft had specific proposals for the EC but was unwilling to extend the deal to other areas Monti may be concerned with, according to the Financial Times. ®

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