Attacks may bring a new 'transatlantic solidarity'

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The attacks on America may force it to play a fuller part on the international stage, senior Liberal Democrats said in Bournemouth yesterday.

The outrage in America could have the positive effect of boosting "transatlantic solidarity", pushing President Bush to sign international agreements, such as on global warming, they claimed.

At a fringe meeting sponsored by The Independent, a panel of speakers expressed the hope that the "barbaric acts" in America would bring an end to the Republicans' "go it alone" stance.

Baroness Williams of Crosby, a former Labour cabinet minister and the deputy Liberal Democrat leader in the House of Lords, said: "The US now understands that it is part of a vulnerable suffering humanity."

Nick Clegg, an MEP, expressed hope that "the huge political and psychological shock on the body politic on 11 September" would spark the "belief in Washington that international organisations and global co-ordination is more necessary than before".

Charles Kennedy, opening the meeting entitled Europe or America: Which way ahead for Britain, joined Baroness Williams to pay tribute to The Independent and the importance of "a free press in a free society".

Bob Kiley, the Commissioner for London Transport, spoke of his personal pain after the tragedy in New York, where he worked for 18 years.

Mr Kiley, a former senior CIA officer who was a guest at the conference, said the attacks would make it hard for America to withdraw from the international community. He said: "America for most of its history has been a country unto itself protected by oceans and its own preoccupations. This is a reminder that oceans are no longer a moat and the old tendencies are no longer germane."