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Saturday, 14 September, 2002, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Ashcroft hails US-EU anti-terror moves
US Attorney General John Ashcroft
Ashcroft seeks closer cooperation with the EU
US Attorney General John Ashcroft says law enforcement agencies in America and Europe have been working much more closely since the 11 September attacks last year.


The partnership to defeat terrorism that we have forged has elevated the level of security for all the nations who love and protect freedom

John Ashcroft
He was speaking after unprecedented talks with European Union justice ministers in the Danish capital, Copenhagen.

He said the partnership against terrorism had already raised the level of safety on both sides of the Atlantic.

EU governments have hailed Mr Ashcroft's visit as a symbol of joint determination - but the moves towards greater co-operation have also prompted criticism that fundamental rights are in jeopardy.

Joint moves

The BBC's Tim Franks in Copenhagen says it was a short meeting - but one steeped in symbolic significance.

No one could recall a US attorney general coming to a meeting of his European Union counterparts, our correspondent adds.

"The partnership to defeat terrorism that we have forged in the past year has indeed elevated the level of security and safety for all the nations who love and protect freedom," Mr Ashcroft said.

The 15 member-countries of the European Union have already agreed a joint arrest warrant for a wide range of crimes.

The definition of terrorism is being extended and there are plans for European governments to be able to access personal electronic information held in data banks.

The proposal discussed in Copenhagen included greater exchange of information between the EU and US authorities, joint investigation teams and simplified rules for extradition.

Death penalty

Mr Ashcroft said the issues facing law enforcement and justice systems were not simple, but called for continuing effort.

Information, he said, was the key to beating organisations such as al-Qaeda, which operated in many different countries and fragmented its operations.

However moves to increase cooperation between the EU and the US have been hampered by differences - notably over the handling and extradition of international terrorist suspects, America's use of military tribunals and the death penalty, which EU governments oppose.

Civil liberties campaigners say there is a risk that the EU could end up helping in an American case where the defendant is sentenced to death.

This means that agreement on new extradition procedures is still some way off, our correspondent says.

As one European diplomat put it: "It's not a one way street here, we're also demanding things from the Americans that are making liberals in the US wince".

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The BBC's Tim Franks
"The message is terrorism can be defeated by international cooperation"

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