BERLIN -- European governments tentatively have declined to take a role in Russia's Clipper manned space vehicle project, saying Europe would not have control over the program and would be limited to being a small industrial contributor, according to European government officials.

European Space Agency (ESA) government ministers discussed a contribution to Clipper and a half-dozen other proposed space investments Dec. 5 during the first of two scheduled days of meetings here. No decisions will be made until the 17 governments finish their deliberations Dec. 6.

But the Clipper program won very little support during the first day's discussions, according to French Research Minister Francois Goulard. ESA spokesman Franco Bonacina said after the session that the Clipper proposal -- a two-year research effort valued at about 51 million euros ($59.8 million) -- had not found much backing.

Russia has proposed that ESA and Japan join Clipper as an alternative to NASA's Crew Exploration Vehicle. Japanese officials have said they are evaluating the idea and that they would be more likely to join the Russian program if Europe did.

Government officials said debate continued on how much Europe should spend on its science program in the coming years, and on its role in the U.S.-led international space station.