ShareThis Page
Middle East

EU seeks to heal division over Iraq

| Thursday, April 17, 2003

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Key European leaders proclaimed a leap forward for continental unity Wednesday, welcoming 10 members to the European Union and teaming up to urge a central United Nations role in postwar Iraq.

Seeking to end months of acrimony, Britain, France, Spain and Germany drafted a joint statement on the U.N. role in reconstructing Iraq and urged Washington to maintain law and order in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein's ouster.

On the sidelines of a ceremony at which former Eastern bloc nations signed EU accession treaties, the four EU nations with seats on the U.N. Security Council also asked Washington to publish a long-delayed "road map" to peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Officials said the aim was for the 15 current EU leaders, along with visiting Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, to endorse the statements on Iraq and the Middle East before the summit ends today.

French President Jacques Chirac said the initiative was a bid to outline principles for reconstructing and stabilizing Iraq "with a central role for the United Nations. We are all agreed on that."

The EU head office would take charge of organizing an airlift "so we can take the (war) wounded to European hospitals, notably children who cannot be adequately treated locally," Chirac said without providing any further details.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the statement was not meant as the basis for a U.N. resolution.

"What we are doing is talking about the new Iraq. We are trying to put behind us the argument about whether or not the coalition should have taken military action," he said.

The Iraq war weighed heavily on a landmark event for the European Union.

At a ceremony in the cradle of European democracy, Cyprus, Malta, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia signed treaties that will bring them into the European Union on May 1, 2004.

The 10 joining nations will bring 75 million people into the EU -- raising its population to 450 million. The newcomers' wealth ranges from barely 29 percent of the EU average in Lithuania to 85 percent in Cyprus.

The bloc's most daring expansion was accompanied by declarations of unity at a ceremony in a colonnaded museum below the Acropolis.

"The European Union is finally overcoming the division of the European continent into East and West, the political division of its states and the painful division of its people that arose as a result of World War II," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said.

In streets nearby, several hundred anti-war protesters broke away from a peaceful demonstration by some 10,000 people to hurl gasoline bombs at police, torch banks and smash storefronts near the American and British embassies.

Police responded with tear gas. More than 100 people were detained.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan also was in Athens, holding fast-paced meetings to narrow differences over the nature and timing of his organization's role in Iraq.

Officials said a consensus emerged to gradually give the world body, in addition to providing humanitarian aid, a say in the political and economic rebuilding of Iraq.

"Reconstruction needs to be under the umbrella of the U.N.," Schroeder said.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me