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Saturday, 16 March, 2002, 10:24 GMT
Britain 'isolated' over Iraq
Blair talks to Romano Prodi and French president Jacques Chirac
Blair talks to Prodi and French president Jacques Chirac
The rift between Britain and its European allies over US intervention in Iraq is widening, according to reports from the European summit in Barcelona.

The subject was not even on the official agenda in Barcelona but European leaders could not avoid being drawn into discussing it privately.

Prime Minister Tony Blair apparently tried to act as a bridge between the European Union and US President George Bush's determination to halt Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programme.

UN resolutions

But Germany's chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, signalled on Friday that he had no intention of participating in any unilateral military action against Baghdad.

France has already made its opposition to such action known, saying any assault should have a United Nations mandate.

Mr Schröder echoed that stance when he confirmed he would only join an anti-Iraq coalition if it were backed by the UN, reports the Guardian newspaper.

The British government insists that there is no need for a new UN mandate because Iraq is already in breach of as many as seven UN resolutions.

It was not on the agenda because there was no specific idea of any imminent conflict in Iraq

Romano Prodi
European Commission President

Further evidence of a split came from Turkey, where bases could be used for military operations against Iraq.

It argued that Saddam Hussein did not constitute a threat to his neighbours.

President of the European Commission Romano Prodi said the issue was not on the summit agenda because there was "no specific idea of imminent conflict in Iraq".

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he agreed it was possible that the EU's policy would eventually be one of opposition to US military action.

But it was not on the agenda in Barcelona "so there was no agreement and no disagreement on Iraq".

He said he was "deeply worried" about a potential American attack on Iraq.

"My position is one of deep worry about a possible attack on Iraq, because of the potential expansion of the conflict. It is a very delicate area."

He agreed that disagreement between member states made the EU's position "very difficult".

Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram said that indicated the importance to Britain of retaining its independent foreign and defence policy.

"One of the realities is that we are very rarely going to see a common front on foreign or defence policy," he told the Today programme.

See also:

15 Mar 02 | Europe
Clashes break out at EU summit
14 Mar 02 | Europe
Protesters rally in Barcelona
13 Jul 01 | Europe
Flashback to summit flashpoints
15 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Labour's union relations hit new low
16 Mar 02 | Europe
Optimism at EU summit
16 Mar 02 | Europe
EU summit agrees power deal
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