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Friday, 21 September, 2001, 23:24 GMT 00:24 UK
EU leaders back US retaliation
Security was tight outside the summit venue
European Union leaders have agreed to support US retaliation for the 11 September terrorist attacks.

At an emergency summit the leaders said a targeted US "riposte" would be "legitimate".

In a joint statement they said each of the 15 nations would participate in such action "according to its means".

Jack Straw says international support is growing

The declaration said the targets could include "states abetting, supporting or harbouring terrorists."

The leaders also called for a global anti-terrorism coalition under the auspices of the United Nations.

And they endorsed a Europe-wide action plan to combat terrorism across the continent.

Middle-east delegation

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the meeting had seen "a widening and deepening of the international coalition" in support of US action in response to the attacks.

"We reaffirmed our full solidarity not only from the heart but also from our sense of reason," French President Jacques Chirac said.

"The EU is showing not only verbal solidarity but also that it is ready to assist in necessary military measures," said German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

It is not the West against terrorism. It is the world against terrorism

French president Jacques Chirac

Leaders also decided to send a delegation to Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and possibly Pakistan to explain their decision.

The top-level delegation, which will be headed by EU foreign policy high representative Javier Solana, will also try to promote peace in the Middle-East.

EU-wide arrests

The leaders agreed to implement a Europe-wide search and arrest warrant "as quickly as possible".

Given the scale of destruction and death, there is an understanding that the response will be significant

UK Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw

That was aimed at cutting through lengthy extradition procedures, and to address different levels of anti-terrorism legislation.

They also directed their finance, justice and interior ministers to immediately take measures to fight "any form of financing of terrorist activities."

That should include adoption within the next few weeks of an extended directive against money laundering and a decision on freezing assets of suspected terrorists.

They also agreed on action to share information between police forces.

Attacks 'proportionate'

Mr Straw stressed that any "riposte" should be "proportionate".

But he added: "Given the scale of destruction and death, there is an understanding that the proportion will be significant.

The leaders stressed their rejection of "any equation of, on the one hand, fanatical terrorist groups and the Arab and Muslim world in general".

"It is a trap set by the terrorists who seek nothing better than a clash of civilizations," Chirac said. "It is not the West against terrorism. It is the world against terrorism."

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

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

They released a statement saying Europe's overall economy remains solid despite the increased risks of recession.

The BBC's Janet Barrie, in Brussels
"We have heard strong words from EU leaders in support of President Bush"
The BBC's John Andrew
"Tony Blair briefed other leaders on his meeting with President Bush"
See also:

21 Sep 01 | Europe
EU leaders open emergency summit
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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