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Saturday, 9 February, 2002, 06:52 GMT
EU's Patten criticises US foreign policy
European Commission
Chris Patten said the EU should speak up
A senior European Union official has criticised the United States for pursuing an "absolutist and simplistic" foreign policy.

EU external affairs commissioner Chris Patten said in an interview with Britain's Guardian newspaper that European governments should speak up before the US went into "unilateralist overdrive".

Even if you're the greatest superpower in the world, you cannot do it all on your own

Chris Patten
Mr Patten said President Bush's characterisation of Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil" was "unhelpful", adding, "I find it hard to believe that's a thought-through policy".

He said the European policy of "constructive dialogue" with Iran was more likely to bring results than an American approach which consisted of "more rhetoric than substance".

There has been a recent revival of relations between Iran and the West, with the EU hoping that by engaging with Iran, it can encourage the reformers in the Iranian government and improve human rights.

In September last year, EU leaders and Iran discussed proposals for a trade and co-operation agreement in the highest-level meeting between the two sides since the 1979 Islamic revolution

Growing rift

The EU's approach contrasts sharply with that of the United States, which has sought to isolate Iran internationally.

Mr Patten told the newspaper America's policy undermined the EU's efforts towards Iran and North Korea.

EU external affairs commissioner Chris Patten
Chris Patten: The US is preoccupied with fighting terrorism

"There is more to be said for trying to engage and to draw these societies into the international community than to cut them off," he said.

The EU commissioner questioned whether an "axis of evil" existed at all, saying there was no evidence the three countries were co-operating in developing weapons of mass destruction.

Mr Patten criticised the United States for focusing more on wiping out terrorism than trying to eradicate its causes.

The former British governor to Hong Kong said it was more important to provide assistance for underdeveloped states

"We know... how important it is to handle failed states properly - and to prevent them failing in the first place.

Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi
Relations have been warming between the EU and Iran

"We have realised that we have to tackle 'the root causes of terrorism and violence', he said, adding that "smart bombs have their place but smart development assistance seems to me even more significant," he said.

Mr Patten's comments come a day after French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin called on the US not to resort to unilateralism or become fixated with the war against terrorism.

The BBC's Chris Morris
"Europe is not yet speaking with one voice"
See also:

08 Feb 02 | Europe
EU denies rift with US
08 Feb 02 | Europe
France steps up US criticism
06 Feb 02 | Americas
Powell steps up Iraq war talk
06 Feb 02 | Americas
Analysis: The 'axis of evil' debate
31 Jan 02 | Middle East
France pushes for Mid-East peace
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