Israel warned over reprisals

SARAH HELM

Palermo

The European Union yesterday sought to shore up the Middle East peace process by issuing a carefully worded statement, condemning "terrorism in all its forms" and advising against extreme military or diplomatic responses which could further fuel the violence.

Foreign ministers of the EU, meeting in Palermo, acknowledged Israel's need to take "tough measures" to assure the safety of Israeli citizens following the latest bombing outrages.

However, in a clear warning to Israel not to punish the Palestinian civilian population, the EU also recognised the "hardship" imposed upon the Palestinians, who have been sealed indefinitely inside the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the bombings, and urged Israel to allow humanitarian aid to enter the areas.

The ministers also voiced "concern" that Iran had failed to condemn the bombings in Israel, perpetrated by the suicide bombers of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, but chose not to sever the so-called "critical dialogue" between the EU and Iran.

The last decision will anger the US, which argues that Iran is giving active economic and military support to Hamas.

Malcolm Rifkind, the Foreign Secretary, said that a forthcoming EU mission would call on Iran to show support for Middle East peace process.

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