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EU threat to Iraq reconstruction

Iraq will need massive aid to rebuild after any war and years of sanctions.
Iraq will need massive aid to rebuild after any war and years of sanctions.

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start quoteIt is hard to build democracy at the barrel of a gun.end quote
-- EU external relations commissioner Chris Patten
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STRASBOURG, France -- European Union could withhold help in rebuilding Iraq after a war if the conflict did not have U.N. approval, a senior EU commissioner has said.

Chris Patten, EU commissioner for external relations, warned on Wednesday that without proper authority the EU might find it difficult to release cash from its external relations budget.

The Iraq crisis -- and how to deal with it -- has seen disagreements at the EU similar to those at NATO and the United Nations and has exposed the difficulties for the bloc in developing common foreign policies.

On one side is France and Germany, which are leading the anti-war campaign and are often considered the driving force of EU development.

On the other is Britain and Spain, which are backing the U.S. hardline stance against Iraq at the U.N. Security Council.

Patten told the EU parliament in Strasbourg: "It will be very difficult in any circumstances to launch massive new programs in Iraq and in the neighborhood of Iraq.

"But it will be that much more difficult for the EU to cooperate fully and on a large scale also in the longer-term reconstruction process if events unfold without proper U.N. cover and if the member states remain divided.

"If it comes to war, it will be very much easier to persuade you to be generous if there is no dispute about the legitimacy of the military action that has taken place; about the new political order that emerges thereafter; or about who is in charge of the reconstruction process."

The EU already has set aside 15 million euros for aid programs in and around Iraq, but Patten said extra cash may be needed from the budget's emergency reserve.

In a debate marked by hostility to war against Iraq, especially without U.N. legitimacy, Patten said he was not issuing a threat of non-cooperation with the United States but simply making an observation of fact.

"It is in the interests of the whole world that power should be constrained by global rules, and used only with international agreement. What other source of international legitimacy but the U.N. exists for military intervention?"

Patten also challenged U.S. President George W. Bush's argument that a war to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would combat terrorism and spread democracy in the Middle East.

"As a general rule, are wars not more likely to recruit terrorists than to deter them? It is hard to build democracy at the barrel of a gun, when history suggests it is more usually the product of long internal development in a society," he said.

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, said the Iraq crisis had caused serious tensions in U.S.-EU relations and posed a danger to multilateral diplomacy.

He said: "We fully support U.N. endeavors. The European Union -- the 15 (member states) and indeed the 28 (including 13 candidate countries) -- have reaffirmed their belief in the important role which falls to the United Nations.

"This is clearly a key element when it comes to any future decisions which are taken in the name of the international community."


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