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The BBC's Paul Reynolds
"Mr Prodi even declared that the American president was now a European"
 real 28k

Thursday, 1 June, 2000, 03:15 GMT 04:15 UK
Clinton offers Star Wars deal
Bill Clinton, Antonio Guterres and Romano Prodi at the end of their joint meeting
Clinton, Guterres and Prodi at the end of their meeting
US President Bill Clinton has moved to reassure European Union leaders over US plans for a new missile defence system.

Speaking after summit talks in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, Mr Clinton said such technology could be shared among "civilised nations".



The purpose of the technology is to provide protection against irresponsible new nuclear powers

President Clinton
He said that if the technology was available for such a system, "it would be unethical" for the US to keep the technology to itself.

"Every country that is part of a responsible international arms control and non-proliferation regime should have the benefit of this protection," he said.

Russia is strongly opposed to US development of an anti-missile system, arguing that it would upset the strategic balance between Washington and Moscow.

Middle East talks

President Clinton is due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in Lisbon on Thursday to discuss developments in the Middle East.

The talks are expected to focus on Israel's recent military withdrawal from southern lebanon and the stalled peace talks with the Palestinians.

Mr Clinton will then travel to Berlin for the next stage of his European tour.

Decision soon

The US aim to amend the landmark 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty is expected to be a topic of heated debate at a meeting in Moscow on Sunday between Mr Clinton and the Russian President, Vladimir Putin.


Anti-missile missile launch
The US missile defence plans have alarmed Russia
Mr Clinton has promised to announce a decision within months on whether the United States will proceed with the programme, now estimated to cost $30bn.

Some European countries including Germany are sceptical about the new missile defence system.

Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Guterres said any move to strengthen security in the northern hemisphere should be agreed as widely as possible among the nations concerned.

But the EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he was confident a common understanding could be reached on the missile defence issue.

Mr Clinton hinted that the United States would be willing to share missile defence technology with Russia.

"We've done a lot of information sharing already with the Russians," he said. "We have offered to do more and we would continue to."

At the same time, he fell short of offering a defensive missile shield to US allies - a position advocated by Republican presidential candidate George W Bush.

Trade disputes

Mr Clinton and the EU leaders failed to reach agreement on a range of trade issues at their summit.


President Clinton
This is expected to be the US president's final European tour
The president of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, said that although no progress had been made, both sides were committed to settling disputes via the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

"We decided that megaphone diplomacy would be replaced by telephone diplomacy," said Mr Prodi said. "That is more constructive, even if less sexy."

Long-standing trade disputes between the EU and US include banana imports, hormone enhanced beef, genetically modified crops and aerospace subsidies.

Earlier, EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy said both sides would hold consultations at the WTO next week to discuss the issues.

Mr Prodi admitted "conflicts" were always possible between such large trading partners.

Between them, Europe and the US represent more than 40% of world trade.

Chechnya appeal

Both Mr Clinton and EU leaders jointly urged Russia to end the fighting in Chechnya and pursue a political solution for the conflict.

They also agreed to tackle Aids in Africa more vigorously.

In addition, there were agreements on data protection and on the setting up of a group of independent scientists to examine bio-technology.

Mr Clinton said that he had rearranged his schedule so that he could meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in Lisbon on Thursday morning to discuss the Middle East peace process.

The meeting had been scheduled for Berlin, Mr Clinton's next stop on his week-long European trip.

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See also:

31 May 00 | Europe
EU-US trade row deepens
24 Mar 00 | Americas
Russia calls for 'Star Wars' ban
30 May 00 | Americas
Lukewarm peace after Cold War
28 Mar 00 | Europe
Putin's foreign policy riddle
19 Jan 00 | Americas
US missile test fails
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