Blair calls on Europe to unite against far right

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The Independent Online

Tony Blair called on citizens of the European Union to resist the emergence of right-wing extremism last night.

After talks in Berlin with the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, the Prime Minister said: "We agreed entirely on the need for democratic people of all persuasions to stand together in solidarity against extremist policies of whatever kind. Those policies offer no real security, no real hope, no real answers to the problems people face and we reject them entirely."

The leaders' talks came after the unexpected success of Jean-Marie Le Pen in the first round of France's presidential election, and the assassination of the Dutch anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn.

The two men also discussed the Middle East. Mr Blair said: "In this tragic situation what is necessary is both to take the necessary measures of security but also to ensure that the political process is relaunched."

Later, interviewed on Germany's most popular television chat show, the Sabine Christiansen current affairs programme, Mr Blair said no decisions had been taken on how to deal with Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction. "Weapons of mass destruction are an issue we need to deal with," he said. "What we cannot do is let the government of Saddam Hussein develop these weapons without any form of intervention. How we do this is an open question."

Mr Blair added: "We are not in a position where action is imminent."

Mr Blair's advice to Mr Schröder's pressing problems of strikes and over-regulation of the economy was: "Let us learn the lesson of free trade. Opening up the world to free trade is better than shutting it out."

The Prime Minister offered an excuse for Germany's high unemployment and low growth rate: "We must not forget that German reunification has cost a great deal and all our economies are undergoing great change. However, we cannot behave as if globalisation did not exist."

Under Mr Schröder's leadership, Germany was credited with having proved its ability to act in crisis regions such as Macedonia and Afghanistan. "The world needs the support of Germany," Mr Blair said.

Mr Schröder is a longstanding admirer of Mr Blair, and modelled his 1998 election campaign on New Labour lines.

With four million unemployed, strikes by the country's powerful engineering workers' union and the lowest economic growth rate in Europe, the chances of Mr Schröder's Social Democrats (SPD) winning Germany's general election in September are diminishing.

Last month Mr Schröder's party suffered a humiliating defeat to the opposition conservative Christian Democrats in the state of Saxony Anhalt. The Christian Democrats were a clear 5 per cent ahead of the SPD in a national poll published at the weekend.