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EU on Iraq: Something for everyone

By CNN European Political Editor Robin Oakley

Simitis announces consensus among EU members

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Saddam warned to disarm fully

No deadline set for inspectors

EU insists war is not inevitable

Priority urged for Mideast peace

Chirac threatens U.N. veto

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Despite divisions, EU leaders issue a stern warning to Iraq. CNN's Robin Oakley reports (February 18)
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BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- The summit, many said, would be a showcase for disunity. But despite their differences on Iraq the EU leaders had to show the European Union still worked. The result? A document with something for everybody.

As German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder put it: "We made it, but the paper is a compromise between different positions."

For pro-U.S. hawks like Spain and UK' Prime Minister Tony Blair, there was a firm declaration that Iraq President Saddam Hussein must disarm immediately and an insistence that the work of arms inspectors could not continue indefinitely.

But there was rather more for Schroder and French President Jacques Chirac, who are trying to hold off a war.

The document declared: "War is not inevitable. Force should be used only as a last resort".

The leaders had clearly got the message from the millions of demonstrators out on Europe's streets on Saturday.

The objective, EU leaders said, was Iraq's disarmament. But the document noted: "We want to achieve this peacefully. It is clear that this is what the people of Europe want."

EU leaders leaders didn't even try to agree to a new Security Council resolution or any deadline for the U.N. inspectors. Decisions of that sort were pushed off elsewhere.

"I think the Security Council will decide how long the inspectors stay, if they succeed or if we should use force or if we have to take other measures," said the summit's host, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis.

Key divisions remain between the summiteers. Blair, whose backing for U.S. President George W. Bush is not echoed by Britain's voters, has long pinned his hopes on a second U.N. resolution to give him political cover.

Chirac, also the holder of a Security Council veto, has other ideas.

"War is always the worst of solutions," the French president said. "That is our position, which brings us to conclude that there is no need for a second resolution today which France would have no choice but to oppose."

For the Greek EU presidency, criticised for calling the summit, there was vindication. An EU crisis was averted. They got an agreement of sorts.

But the Chirac-Blair split confirms that there was no meeting of minds. Officials conceded that the leaders left the summit not in jubilation at their achievement -- but in relief that it hadn't been any worse.

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