British police will quiz Kate and Gerry McCann as well as their seven holiday friends within the next week over the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine.
The leading Portuguese detective in the case and a District Attorney will travel to Britain to demand the couple and other members of the "Tapas Nine" face fresh interrogation over the missing four-year-old, it has been reported.
They will bring a list of questions they want posed by UK police.
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Setback: Police want to re-interview Kate and Gerry McCann and their friendsClaims of fresh interviews were made in Portugal's respected newspaper Daily 24 Horas, which has received a number of police leaks.
A close friend of the McCanns said they believed that only the seven friends would face questioning.
He added: "We believe that we are getting close to the couple being cleared."
But the McCanns' names are said to be on the letter police chief Paulo Rebelo must give UK authorities for questioning to go ahead.
The visit is being hailed as "make or break" after police were told DNA tests alone are not enough to bring charges against the McCanns over Madeleine's disappearance from their holiday flat in Praia da Luz.
Kate and Gerry McCann's hopes of being quickly cleared as suspects in their daughter's disappearance appeared to suffer a setback yesterday.
One line of questioning could be a coincidence - dubbed the Exeter Connection - linking suspect Robert Murat, 34, a British expat living in the village where the little girl vanished, to two of the nine.
Murat stayed with his sister in Exeter in the spring, and returned to Portugal two days before Madeleine disappeared on May 3, The Sun reports today.
Two of the Tapas Nine, Russell O'Brien, 36, and Jane Tanner, 37, who says she saw a man carrying the child away, live less than a mile from Murat's sister, Samantha.
Dr O'Brien and partner Jane are neighbours of James Gorrod, 34, and wife Charlotte, 32, who were also in Praia da Luz when Madeleine disappeared. None of them are suspects.
"There are many pieces to the jigsaw, but they all seem to add up to Exeter - we want to know why," a police source told The Sun.
The McCanns had hoped police would lift their status as official suspects after DNA tests failed to find any evidence to prove they were involved.
But Portuguese officers have told a public prosecutor they need to speak to the Britons again.
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Live in Exeter: Dr Russell O'Brien and partner Jane TannerSources told the Portuguese news channel SIC that a team of detectives and the prosecutor would fly to Britain next week for the interviews.
They will deliver letters of appeal to British police, asking them to interrogate the Britons again with Portuguese officers present.
The Portuguese police would need the permission of the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, if they wanted to re-interview Kate and Gerry McCann or their friends on British soil, a police source said today. ,p> "A request would have to be sent to the Home Office in writing and would have to be approved by the Home Secretary."
A spokeswoman for the Home Office said: "If the Portuguese police were to require to travel to the UK then they would need to apply for mutual legal assistance from the Home Office."
The McCanns' spokesman, Clarence Mitchell, said he could not confirm that they were to be interviewed again because the family's legal team had not seen such an application.
But he added: "Kate and Gerry and their friends have consistently said they are more than happy to be reinterviewed if Portuguese police feel it is necessary.
"Indeed their friends are keen to be reinterviewed, if that helps to clarify any inconsistencies the police feel may exist in their original statements, and if it leads to Kate and Gerry being eliminated from the inquiry.
"Their friends, like Kate and Gerry, have absolutely nothing to hide."
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Missing: Madeleine McCann disappeared from the family's holiday apartment in Praia da Luz on May 3There is a possibility that the interviews could simply be a formal step towards removing the couple's status as suspects.
The McCanns, both 39, and their friends have always denied that they were involved in Madeleine's disappearance, or that they agreed a "pact of silence".
Four members of the Portuguese investigation team flew home from the UK yesterday after meeting British forensic experts to discuss DNA samples collected for the inquiry.
Tests are said to have been carried out on blood samples, bodily fluids and hair found in the McCanns' holiday apartment and the car they hired 25 days after their daughter disappeared.
Both Leicestershire Police, the McCanns' local force, and the Birmingham-based Forensic Science Service called the meeting "routine".
Portuguese police also met their public prosecutor for more than three hours yesterday to discuss the DNA tests.
The new British ambassador to Portugal, Alex Ellis, was also at the police station in Faro, but the Foreign Office insisted his visit was pre-planned and "unrelated".
Newspapers in Portugal quoted police sources as admitting the forensic evidence was "very tenuous" but saying it was not the only strand of the investigation.
• Portuguese police have returned items including a computer and a diary they seized from suspect Robert Murat's girlfriend, Michaela Walczuch. Detectives were said to have found 'no trace of any crime'.
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