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Monday, 5 November, 2001, 09:16 GMT
European allies reaffirm war support
Lionel Jospin and Jacques Chirac arriving at Downing Street
Both Lionel Jospin and Jacques Chirac attended
European leaders have discussed the war in Afghanistan and the Middle East peace process during an impromptu "mini-summit" with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in London.

The meeting lasted two hours and there was said to have been "absolute solidarity" around the combined military, diplomatic and humanitarian strategy being pursued by the coalition.

A Downing Street spokesman said the talks, at which seven countries were represented, were "very useful".

The meeting was initially to involve only German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder as well as the French president and prime minister - Jacques Chirac and Lionel Jospin.

The prime minister wanted to get together with the five major military contributors

Prime Minister's spokesman
But it was expanded to include four more leaders including Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Spain's Jose Maria Aznar.

The other late additions were Guy Verhofstadt, Belgian prime minister and current holder of the EU's rotating presidency, Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok, and the EU's representative on foreign and security affairs, Javier Solana.

Successor regime

Mr Blair briefed them on his latest round of Middle East shuttle diplomacy attempting to bolster support for the coalition among Arab nations and re-start the failing peace process.

Leaving the meeting, Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok said the talks had been informal but practical.

Gerhard Schroeder arriving at Downing Street
Gerhard Schroeder has supported the coalition
He said the European leaders agreed that the military campaign in Afghanistan was a means to an end and must be conducted hand in hand with political and urgent humanitarian efforts.

He said they also needed to ensure that no political vacuum was left in the country once the military campaign was over.

Mr Kok said part of the meeting was also used to discuss the Middle East peace process and how the Europeans and Americans could put pressure on the main players to take responsibility and prepare for lasting peace.

A Downing Street spokesman said the mini-summit was an opportunity to "swap notes" on the war on terrorism.

"It was a useful opportunity for the leaders to get an overview of the situation," he said.

US trip

He added that the timing was particularly useful as Mr Schroeder has just returned from talks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin while Mr Chirac is visiting Washington next week.

Mr Blair is also due to fly to Washington to see President George Bush.

Jose Maria Aznar arriving at Downing Street
Seven countries were represented
But a planned meeting with Ariel Sharon has been called off after the Israeli prime minister announced he was cancelling visits to Britain and the US, citing the security situation in his own country.

The British prime minister's spokesman said Mr Blair continued to believe that the bombing campaign was making "steady progress".

"The prime minister wanted to get together with the five major military contributors to exchange views on the military campaign."

Last week Mr Blair visited Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Authority to try and encourage the revival of Middle East peace talks.

The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"Downing Street described the meeting as very useful"
The BBC's Andrew Marr
describes what might have been discussed at the meeting
See also:

05 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Analysis: Europe's second class states?
01 Nov 01 | Middle East
Blair seeks return to Mid-East peace
01 Nov 01 | Middle East
Palestinians doubt Blair can deliver
01 Nov 01 | Middle East
Short-term success in Mid-East for Blair
01 Nov 01 | Middle East
Anti-British demo cancelled
01 Nov 01 | UK
Blair the 'quiet American'
01 Nov 01 | Middle East
Assad's strong words
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