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Last Updated: Friday, 5 November, 2004, 15:24 GMT
EU downplays tensions over Iraq
Jacques Chirac
Mr Chirac, strongly opposed to the war, left the summit early
Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has joined EU leaders at a summit in Brussels marked by efforts to bury differences over the Iraq war.

"After the divisions of the past, today there was total unanimity" on Iraq, said Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, who chaired the meeting.

Mr Allawi said "we all need to close ranks and defeat terrorism" and urged EU countries to keep troops in Iraq.

French President Jacques Chirac, a key critic of the war, left Brussels early.

But Mr Chirac, who was heading off to the United Arab Emirates, denied snubbing Mr Allawi. He stressed that France's ties with the new Iraqi authorities were "excellent".

Mr Chirac said he had never refused to meet Mr Allawi, who had earlier referred to countries that opposed the war as "spectators" who should now get involved in rebuilding Iraq. His remark was widely seen to be directed at France, among others.

'New chapter'

Mr Chirac is flying to the UAE to express condolences over the death on Tuesday of its founding leader, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan.

Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi
What is happening in Iraq is not an Iraqi fight only, it's a fight on behalf of the world... we need to defeat terrorists all over the globe
Iyad Allawi
Mr Allawi said "we need to open a new chapter and look to the future".

He urged "friendly countries" to help Iraq build up its security capabilities "before, during and after the elections", planned for January. He warned that pulling troops out early "would encourage the terrorists".

Two more members of the US-led coalition in Iraq, the Netherlands and Hungary, this week announced plans to withdraw their troops quite soon after the Iraqi elections,

The EU is due to approve a package of aid for training Iraqi election officials, lawyers and police, but it is worth only 30 million euros ($39m) - a small sum by Europe's standards.

Mr Allawi also paid his first visit to Nato headquarters, seeking more help from the alliance. France and Germany have resisted US pressure for Nato to play a bigger role in efforts to stabilise Iraq.

EU congratulates Bush

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said some EU leaders were in a "state of denial" over President George Bush's poll win.

He urged European leaders to accept President Bush's re-election, in a pre-summit interview with London's Times newspaper.

In a draft joint statement, the EU leaders warmly congratulated President Bush on his re-election.

The leaders said they "look forward to working very closely with President Bush and his new administration to combine efforts, including in multilateral institutions, to promote the rule of law and create a just, democratic and secure world".

But Mr Chirac called for the EU to be more assertive vis-a-vis the US.

"It is obvious that the assertion of strong American policy leads [us] quite naturally to reinforce Europe on political and economic fronts," he said.

Iraq's Prime Minister looks to strengthen ties with Europe

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