EU seeks multilateral strategy to combat global terror threat

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The Independent Online

The European Union moved to back American concerns over terrorism and weapons of mass destruction last night, but called for an "effective multilateral system" to combat growing global threats.

EU foreign ministers were discussing a security strategy compiled by Javier Solana, their foreign policy chief, as a summit of leaders prepared to send a tough message to Iran over its nuclear programme.

The Solana document, released before an EU-US summit next week, describes weapons of mass destruction as "the single most important threat to peace and security", adding: "The most frightening scenario is one in which terrorist groups acquire weapons of mass destruction."

The draft, entitled A Secure Europe in a Better World, says the EU - which next year will expand to 25 states with 450 million people and one quarter of the world's economic output - has no choice but to play a bigger role on the global stage.

Mr Solana's paper also called for greater co-operation among EU states, pointing out that, together, the member nations have more than 45,000 diplomats.

But while it called for those countries to boost military capacities and pool defence resources, it contained no call for the use of force and did not offer a judgement on US ideas of pre-emptive strikes.

Significantly, the document also referred to global problems such as poverty, bad governance, the abuse of power and corruption.

Downing Street welcomed Mr Solana's paper, with Mr Blair's spokesman saying: "This places strong emphasis on effective multilateralism, and says that the transatlantic relationship is irreplaceable."

Tomorrow, EU leaders are expected to send a warning to Iran to sign a protocol to an international agreement that would open up the country to tough inspections of its nuclear programme.

This week, EU foreign ministers warned that, without progress on this issue, there was no chance of a trade deal between the EU and Iran. But whether the heads of state would go beyond that statement to impose a deadline on Iran to sign the protocol was unclear.

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