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EU unites region against terror



BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Over 40 countries have adopted a declaration expressing "wholehearted support" for targeted U.S. military strikes to "eliminate terrorism and stamp it out at its roots."

The initiative, involving the European Union and its neighbouring countries, including Russia, Ukraine and Iceland, also agreed to "spare no effort" to implement international conventions aimed at cutting off financing for terror groups and combating money laundering.

They also agreed to study ways to share information on the activities of terror networks, including the movements of individuals, weapons and chemical, biological and nuclear materials.

Details of the agreement was given by Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

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He spoke after foreign ministers, deputies and other officials from nearly 40 countries in and around the EU met on Saturday in Belgium to coordinate anti-terrorism strategies and reaffirm their solidarity with the United States in the wake of last month's attacks.

Russia, Ukraine and Moldova -- former Soviet republics that were invited to the biannual conference for the first time "in view of the importance of the subject" -- joined in unanimously supporting the declaration, Michel said.

"We have created a European coalition against terrorism, with the EU taking the lead," said EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen.

"The other countries agreed to be inspired by actions already taken by the EU."

On Friday, EU leaders finished a summit in Ghent pledging their continued support for the U.S.-led campaign against Afghanistan's Taliban.

Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt said the United States had asked the EU for specific help in three areas: judicial assistance and extradition, stopping proliferation of biological, chemical and nuclear material that could be used as weapons, and cracking down on forged documents, such as passports and visas.

On Saturday, delegates reported what their countries had done so far and exchanged ideas for additional steps.

Some non-EU countries asked to join the proposed European arrest warrant, which EU leaders hope to approve by the end of the year. Michel said the EU was open to the idea, although it would not happen right away.

He said all the delegates welcomed a Polish suggestion to hold a conference of central European states to improve anti-terrorism efforts there, as well as a suggestion from Turkey to set up a "dialogue of cultures" with the Islamic conference.

Michel and Verheugen also assured the 13 applicant countries, mainly in central and eastern Europe, that the focus on the war against terrorism would not delay plans to begin accepting new members to the 15-nation EU by 2004.

"In the new global situation, our strategy is more justified than ever," Verheugen said.

Enlargement will contribute strongly to create an area of security and stability in Europe. That can be the best prevention against tensions, conflict, violence and terrorism."



 
 
 
 


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