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Wednesday, 12 February, 2003, 23:03 GMT
Congress lashes out at 'old Europe'
Putin (l) and Chirac in Paris
Some Americans feel betrayed by their former allies

US lawmakers are threatening to take retaliatory action against France, Belgium and Germany for their opposition to US policy towards Iraq.

Anger with the French and German stand has led some US congressmen to call for a trade boycott of French products and the withdrawal of some US troops from Germany.

The failure of these three states to honour their commitments is beneath contempt

Tom Lantos,
Democratic congressman
And some consumers are already reducing their purchases of French cheese and wine.

The increased rhetoric and demands for action are a concrete sign of the growing tensions within the Nato alliance.

The bitterness is evident across the political spectrum.

Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos of California said he was "particularly disgusted by the blind intransigence and utter ingratitude" of France, Germany and Belgium.

"The failure of these three states to honour their commitments is beneath contempt," he told Colin Powell as the secretary of state began his testimony to Congress.

Drop in support

Republican Senator John Warner, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said that Congress may consider reducing financial support to Nato.

And his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Duncan Hunter, said that Germany's "tears of gladness at the sacrifice Americans have made for their freedom have dried very quickly."

Anything we can do to hurt them without hurting us, I will support

Peter King,
Republican congressman
He said that the House would now strongly back the plans by the Bush administration to reduce the number of US troops in Germany from the current level of 71,000.

"Anything we can do to hurt them without hurting us, I will support," said Republican congressman Peter King.

Even moderate Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman said that "the tone and volume of their dissent is in danger of drowning out the voice of a nearly united Europe."

Ban request

Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, J Dennis Hastert, has asked Congress to consider banning French exports of wine and bottled water on health grounds.

Anti-war protester
Anti-war sentiment in Europe is causing anger in the USA
He says that some French wine is clarified using bovine blood, so that Americans could be at risk of getting BSE or "mad cow" disease.

The US is already involved in several bitter trade wars with the European Union, which has banned US exports of genetically modified food on health grounds.

So far, US trade officials are holding off from bringing a case against the EU to the World Trade Organisation - at least partly because the EU is already in a position to slap up to $4bn worth of trade sanctions against the US in another case, but has so far refrained from doing so.

Consumer boycott

Meanwhile, some Americans are taking direct action.

Cheese and wine (generic)
European products are under pressure
Orders at the French cheese website, fromages.com, which gets 80% of its business from the US, have dropped as the site as received many e-mails from angry customers.

"Because of the current position your government is taking on not supporting the U.S. at this time regarding Iraq, we are not going to support France in any way," one e-mail said.

And the president of the French-American Chamber of Commerce, Boris Marchand-Tonnel, warned that US airlines that were getting government support would be reluctant to buy Airbus commercial jets from France.

So far, the movement for a consumer boycott is small, and like the boycott of the French tourist industry in the past, officials are hoping it will be short-lived.

But the bitter words are resonating with the strong but dormant US tradition of avoiding foreign alliances.

In the long run, that mounting disillusionment could make it more difficult for those in the Bush administration who are trying to maintain the integrity of the Nato alliance.


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05 Feb 03 | Europe
06 Feb 03 | Middle East
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