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Last Updated: Friday, 19 March, 2004, 21:06 GMT
Blunkett praises terrorism talks
David Blunkett
Blunkett has ruled out a 'European CIA'
Home Secretary David Blunkett has welcomed talks between EU ministers at which it was agreed to appoint a "terrorism tsar".

One official will co-ordinate the anti-terrorism work of member states in the wake of the Madrid bombings.

Mr Blunkett hailed moves towards better European anti-terrorism co-operation.

He said:"I believe we have agreed a series of practical measures which can make a real difference to the fight against terrorism."

The meeting was not a talking shop and focused on how we get things done
David Blunkett

At the emergency meeting in Brussels, a proposal to create an EU-wide intelligence agency was rejected.

Mr Blunkett had been among those against the creation of a European-style CIA , stressing the need for existing agencies to work together more closely.

After the talks he said it was "gratifying" many of the UK's proposals had been accepted.

Those included establishing common standards for communications data retention, improving data exchange between countries and proposals to make better use of intelligence across the EU.

Summit meeting

Ahead of the talks, he said he wanted an analysis centre, as the UK already has, so intelligence and security services across Europe could be shared.

He also urged other EU members to speed up progress on moves such as a common European arrest warrant agreed after 11 September.

Britain wants to improve the flow of information on terror suspects by ensuring data is sent to Europol, the Hague-based police intelligence centre.

At Friday's meeting, EU ministers agreed the anti-terrorism "tsar" would work under the EU's security chief, Javier Solana, pulling together measures being taken in the security field by ministers of transport, justice, foreign affairs and finance.

The proposals agreed in Brussels will now be put to a summit meeting of EU leaders next week.

'Definite link'

Earlier Mr Blunkett pledged 15m more anti-terror cash for London with 12m to improve surveillance and intelligence gathering and 3m for other forces.

A Home Office spokeswoman said the extra money was not a "knee-jerk reaction to Madrid" but would complement funding and staff increases in the security services.

On Friday London Metropolitan police commissioner Sir John Stevens warned of a "definite link" between the Madrid bombers and the UK.

He told the Independent he thought there was "definite link" between suspects arrested after the Madrid bombings and UK-based extremists,

Scotland Yard said it was looking into possible financial and logistical connections, but did not give details.

Earlier this week the commissioner said a terrorist attack on London at some stage was "inevitable".

In a separate development, Mr Blunkett pledged 13m to put more police officers on the beat, under a pilot scheme to employ more civilian staff in police stations.

The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"David Blunkett left Brussels early, perhaps just a little sceptical"

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