Howard warns of election threat to Atlantic alliance

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The election of a new American president next week will inevitably lead to a review of the superpower's defence commitment in Europe, MPs warned yesterday.

The election of a new American president next week will inevitably lead to a review of the superpower's defence commitment in Europe, MPs warned yesterday.

Michael Howard, the former cabinet minister and Tory MP for Folkestone and Hythe, during the second day of a defence debate, stressed that the change in president would mean that Britain "must seek" to minimise "points of friction" and not add to them.

"It is almost inevitable that the new US administration will want to review the US contribution to the defence of Europe and the role of Nato. That review will take place at a time when the Atlantic partnership is under strain," he said.

"That partnership has been one of the greatest forces for good in the world as a whole over the last 50 years or more. Yet the Government of the UK, at this critical time ... has embarked on a defence initiative which will inevitably exacerbate the strains and risk."

Arguing against a European Army, he said the last thing the UK wanted was to "fritter away scarce resources on an unnecessary new set of bureaucratic arrangements" outside the framework of Nato which "already duplicate" those in Nato.

Mike Gapes, a Labour member of the Defence Select Committee, said the greatest threat to Nato did not come from Europe but the Republican Party. We need a "US engaged in Europe" not, as "George W Bush wants" to withdraw its resources from Kosovo, he warned.

Earlier, John Spellar, a Defence minister, announced a pioneering agreement to boost logistical support for military aircraft engines. He disclosed that a "partnering agreement" had been signed between the Defence Aviation Repair Agency and the engine makers Rolls-Royce.

The aim was to provide "best practice integrated logistics support for military engines in service with the armed forces".

Opposition defence spokesman Quentin Davies welcomed improvement in the logistics organisation and the Rolls-Royce arrangement. Mr Davies said the Tories were "totally committed" to the Eurofighter programme and the A400M.

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