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Monday, 17 September, 2001, 18:51 GMT 19:51 UK
Europe cautious over US response
Paris wall of peace
Europe is reluctant to enter a major conflict
European support for US-led retaliation to last week's attacks on New York and Washington has shown signs of faltering as leaders strike a range of nuanced positions, some at odds with Washington's.

Javier Solana
Solana: Call for "grand coalition"
Although EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana called for a "grand international coalition to fight against this plague of terrorism", leading politicians in France, Germany and Italy expressed reservations about the US response - though German leaders are themselves divided.

Nato countries last week invoked article five of the alliance's constitution, declaring that Tuesday's attack was an attack on them all.

But some countries have emphasised their freedom to act as individual nations within the terms of that commitment.

Conscripts' concerns

"The term war is inappropriate," said Italian Defence Minister Antonio Martino, echoing views expressed across Italy's spectrum.

We must use armed reaction in a way that doesn't provoke other elements of instability

French Defence Minister Alain Richard
Mr Martino initially ruled out involving Italian troops in any conflict but later qualified his comments, saying special forces might participate in a Nato response.

On Monday Mr Martino said that intelligence would first have to show clearly who the real culprits were, but once that was done, Italy's commitment would be total and absolute.

Germany's President, Johannes Rau, also doubted that his country's troops would take part in any armed response, suggesting they would play a role in providing logistical support to Nato's response.

However, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder rejected this view: "I cannot and do not want to rule out [military participation]" he said.

Gerhard Schroeder
Schroeder: Not ruling out role for German troops
His Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, said some retaliation was necessary.

"Not to react would be an invitation to continue [with terrorism]," he said.

But he warned against a "disproportionate response".

German troops have been put on a heightened state of alert and the defence minister has said he is examining all possibilities for provision of support to the United States.

Spanish support

The French Defence Minister, Alain Richard, also urged caution.

"Armed action is only one component," he said. "We must use it in a way that doesn't provoke other elements of instability".

Spain will act without any reservations and as an active member of Nato because we have suffered from terrorism more than anybody

Spanish Defence Minister Federico Trillo
Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine meanwhile asserted that "every ally remains free" within Nato's commitment to assist the US.

President Jacques Chirac flies to Washington on Tuesday, where the British Government believes he will solidly back military action.

On Monday he said: "The solidarity between our countries should be expressed with as much force as heart."

Russian defence officials have also qualified their initial signs of solidarity with the US regarding military action.

The defence minister ruled out launching attacks on Afghanistan from former Soviet republics and the chief of staff said Russia would not participate militarily.

On Monday, however, a visiting US diplomat said he believed Russia had ruled nothing out.

Spain, led like the US by a right-wing administration, has given one of the strongest signals of support.

"Spain will act without any reservations and as an active member of Nato because we have suffered from terrorism more than anybody," said Defence Minister Federico Trillo and offered the US use of its bases.

Military analyst Michael O'Hanlon
"The more Nato countries that contribute to this mission the better"
See also:

17 Sep 01 | Europe
Europe tries to trace its victims
17 Sep 01 | Europe
US in security talks with Russia
16 Jul 01 | Europe
Why Russia fears US 'Star Wars'
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