Blair uses French press to urge closer US-EU ties

12th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 12 (AFP) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair argued for greater US-EU cooperation in a column published in a French newspaper Sunday and rejected criticism that he was making his country Washington's "poodle".

PARIS, Dec 12 (AFP) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair argued for greater US-EU cooperation in a column published in a French newspaper Sunday and rejected criticism that he was making his country Washington's "poodle".

Britain, Blair wrote in Le Journal du Dimanche, plays a central role as bridge between the United States and Europe and is doing everything it can to bring them closer together, particularly over Iraq.

"I'm not saying that America never makes mistakes; that, in its mental insularity, it sometimes seems closed to the concerns of the rest of the world," he wrote.

But "it is neither reasonable nor intelligent for Europe to mock America's arguments and to ridicule its political executive."

The only way to find a solution to the problems posed by Iraq, the situation between Israelis and Palestinians, global warming, global trade, nuclear proliferation and the emerging Chinese economy is for Europe and the United States to work together, he argued.

"If they are not partners, they will not be able to resolve any of these problems, at least not under good conditions."

Much of the article focused on justifying the US-British invasion of Iraq last year, but Blair did not repeat the argument at the time - later found to be false - that such action was needed because Iraq allegedly possessed weapons of mass destruction posing an imminent threat.

Instead, Blair wrote that the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington blamed on Al-Qaeda pushed his government to "radically change its policies, to go from containing the threat to confrontation" and Afghanistan and Iraq felt the consequences.

"Rogue states like Iraq... should be made to obey" an international community alert to "the illegal development of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons in the world."

Blair's choice of reiterating his stance in a French newspaper underlined the efforts Britain and the United States are now making to reach out to allies who opposed the Iraq war.

US President George W. Bush is to visit Europe next February in a bid to mend fences. His government has gone deeper into debt as it maintains a military occupation of Iraq that is constantly challenged by insurgents.

France, Germany and other countries have balked at US pressure to send forces of any description into Iraq, even in the form of NATO training missions, saying the chaotic and bloody situation on the ground precludes that. Paris has offered to train Iraqi security forces out of the country.

Blair said he would continue to be a "tireless advocate" for strong US-EU ties.

That would be difficult, he admitted, "but it is nonetheless justified and worthy of the effort. There is no other alternative."

Such intentions should not make Britain be seen as "America's poodle" but rather a pragmatic nation seeking to advance its own interests through alliances with the two biggest power blocs in the world today, Blair wrote.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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