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Friday, 21 September, 2001, 16:50 GMT 17:50 UK
EU leaders open emergency summit
European Union leaders have opened an emergency summit in Brussels intended to reaffirm their support for the United States following the suicide attacks in New York and Washington.

Anti-terrorism measures and ways of calming financial markets after the attacks on the US will also be on the agenda.

Many Europeans were killed in the attack on the World Trade Center in New York.

It is a very sophisticated fight, which will involve questions of finance, the exchange of information and police co-operation

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana

Friday's summit has been organised by Belgium, the current holders of the EU presidency, and its Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt has set out the principal purpose of the talks.

He wants European Union leaders to confirm their message of solidarity with the US.

The BBC's Europe correspondent Colin Blane says that despite shades of opinion across the 15 EU member states, that is what is likely to happen.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair will report on his talks with President George W Bush, as will French President Jacques Chirac.

Attacks 'proportionate'

Another EU team led by the Belgian foreign minister Louis Michel has also just returned from Washington.

After meeting Secretary of State Colin Powell, Mr Michel said he felt reassured that any military response would be proportionate and aimed only at those directly responsible for the attacks.

Louis Michel and Colin Powell
A declaration of unity was made by Brussels and Washington
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who was part of the mission, said the battle against terrorism would not be primarily military.

"It is a very sophisticated fight, which will involve questions of finance, the exchange of information and police co-operation," he said.

"It will be without doubt a long fight."

In a joint statement following the visit by the EU team, Washington and Brussels said they would step up the fight against terrorism by tightening restrictions on extremist groups and giving police more powers.

In a letter to his fellow EU leaders, Mr Verhofstadt said the summit would confirm "our message of solidarity with the American people and leaders".

Strong political message

He said they must "try to send a strong political message as well to our own population" stressing the urgent need to develop "a true European policy in the struggle against terrorism".

Eleven EU member states also belong to Nato, which has said it will consider the attacks on September 11 as a strike against the entire alliance if it is confirmed they originated abroad.

Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac
Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac will report on their talks with George Bush
As well as looking at measures to improve airline security and tackle terrorism, heads of government are also to examine the roots of the current crisis.

They will focus on the Middle East but will be careful about the tone they set, to avoid language and actions which might antagonise the wider Islamic world.

In the wake of the attacks, EU justice and interior ministers have already forged ahead with plans for a Europe-wide arrest warrant and extradition procedures.

Security is tight for the summit at the EU Council of Ministers building and police have cordoned off several blocks around the venue for the entire evening.

EU finance ministers and central bankers were meeting separately in Liege, in eastern Belgium, to assess the damage to the world's financial markets.

The BBC's John Andrew
"Mr Blair will be briefing other EU leaders on his talks at the Whitehouse"
Peter Ludlow, Centre for European Policy Studies
"This meeting will declare the solidarity of the EU"
See also:

20 Sep 01 | Europe
EU gears up to fight terrorism
17 Sep 01 | Europe
EU weighs response to US strikes
19 Sep 01 | Europe
EU acts on terrorism
18 Sep 01 | Europe
Europe tightens security
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