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Wednesday, 5 December, 2001, 20:50 GMT
Greece threatens EU defence deal
Nato peacekeepers
The EU hopes the 60,000 force will go into action in 2003
Greece has warned that it is ready to stymie a deal, negotiatied between the UK, the US and Turkey which was seen as a breakthrough for the planned EU rapid reaction force.

The fact that Turkey has agreed does not mean that Greece has agreed

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou
"The fact that Turkey has agreed does not mean that Greece has agreed," said Foreign Minister George Papandreou.

Turkey - a member of Nato but not the EU - had been blocking the planned force's right to use Nato bases on its soil.

It apparently dropped its objections after receiving assurances it would be consulted on a case-by-case basis.

Veto threat

But Mr Papandreou said the deal reached between Turkey, the UK and the US did not apply to the EU as a whole.

I think we are on the way to a solution and I am optimistic

US Secretary of State Colin Powell
"It is obvious we will accept a settlement that... absolutely respects the autonomy of the European Union regarding issues of foreign policy and defence," he said.

He would not say whether Greece would use its veto in EU discussions - a move which could block the whole project.

But US Secretary of State Colin Powell, on a one-day visit to Turkey, indicated that he believed a compromise could still be found.

"I think we are on the way to a solution and I am optimistic," he said.

EU battleground

The EU hopes that its 60,000-strong force will be formally launched at its Belgian summit in mid-December, and will be ready to go into action by 2003.

European officials believe it could be used in disputes where Nato is keeping its distance. It is also seen as a way of boosting Europe's role in international affairs.

The EU is a battleground for the long and bitter dispute between Greece and Turkey.

Recently, Turkey warned that if the divided island of Cyprus became an EU member, it would annex the north.

Greece, for its part, has threatened to block all the EU's enlargement ambitions if Cyprus is not included in the first round of expansion.

See also:

20 Nov 00 | Europe
Europe's new defence force
30 Apr 01 | Euro-glossary
Rapid reaction force
11 Feb 01 | UK
Call to boost Euro armies
05 Feb 01 | Europe
Nato warns of threat to EU force
10 Oct 01 | Europe
Viewpoint: EU finds its role
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