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Friday, 19 October, 2001, 18:07 GMT 19:07 UK
Blair welcomes EU anti-terror support
Workers in Ghent
Ghent dressed up in its summit colours
The EU has reaffirmed its "staunch support" for the US and the military action in Afghanistan, Tony Blair has said.

Speaking at the EU summit in Belgium, the UK Prime Minister said there had been a "unanimous view" that the action had to be seen through to a successful conclusion.

However, despite this redeclaration of support, member states have backed away from an overt call to overthrow the Taleban regime.

Instead, the final statement from the summit calls for the elimination of the al-Qaeda network.


It is right and proper that this mini-summit has taken place

Michael Ancram
But Mr Blair said there had been "complete acceptance" at the meetings that action had to be taken against the Taleban.

As the leaders of Europe gathered in Ghent, there was anger among some that they were not invited to pre-summit talks held between the UK, Germany and France.

'Not divisive'

European Commission President Romano Prodi said on Thursday it was a "shame" this meeting was being held before Friday's main summit.

But Downing Street denied the meeting, between France's President Jacques Chirac, Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Prime Minister Tony Blair, wasdivisive.

And Conservative foreign affairs spokesman Michael Ancram said it was "right and proper" that the meeting between the three countries took place.

The UK, Germany and France were the only European states that had so far been asked by Washington to make a military contribution, he said.

Ghent shops board up in case of a violent demonstration
Shops were boarded up in case of a violent demonstration
Mr Blair's official spokesman said such meetings were not unusual, and added that Mr Chirac had suggested the separate talks.

Moves to stop the movement of materials that could be used in terror attacks were high on the summit's agenda.

The summit had originally been arranged to discuss the single currency, although international events overtook the long-arranged talks.

Mr Blair's spokesman said earlier that the meeting between the French, German and UK leaders was not in competition with the main summit.

Haggling

In the run-up to the summit, there were signs of difficulties emerging in preserving Europe's united front on the anti-terror offensive.

It took foreign ministers five hours of haggling at a meeting in Luxembourg on Wednesday to agree on the final draft of their joint statement.

Britain, France and Germany had considered a draft text submitted by the Belgian EU presidency to be too mild, and insisted that it be strengthened.

On Friday, the president of the European Parliament, Nicole Fontaine, called for a special joint meeting of home affairs and health ministers, to adopt new rules on European health care and civil defence in response to the anthrax attacks.

She also cast doubt on whether a raft of Europe-wide counter-terrorism measures could be in place by the promised date of 7 December.

They include new laws to counter money laundering, tough new airline security measures and the introduction of an EU-wide arrest warrant.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Emma Simpson
"This was a summit dominated by war"
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
"The original purpose of this summit has been over-shadowed"
The BBC's Nick Robinson in Ghent
"Anxieties are being expressed by some countries"

Key stories

Background

War view

TALKING POINT

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Your guide to the European Union: Features, backgrounders and reference guides
Making sense of the EU

See also:

16 Oct 01 | Europe
EU combats terror funding
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