A chorus of European leaders indicated yesterday that they would oppose military
action against the states identified by George Bush as an "axis of evil", as the
split between Europe and Washington widened further.
Germany led the protests, sending a shrill, clear signal that it wants nothing
to do with an attack on Iraq, named alongside Iran and North Korea in President
Bush's state of the union address a week ago.
Berlin's deputy foreign minister, Ludger Vollmer, said: "We Europeans warn
against it. There is no indication, no proof that Iraq is involved in the terrorism
we have been talking about for the last few months... this terror argument cannot
be used to legitimise old enmities."
German leaders have repeatedly expressed opposition in recent months to an
extension of the military war on terrorism. "Iraq is certainly a bad state. We
see few positive signs there," Mr Vollmer said yesterday. "But the solution cannot
lie in attacking it militarily."
Other EU member states said they planned to stick with their dialogues with
Iran and North Korea. Diplomats in Brussels said yesterday there were no plans
to review relations, in line with the union's policy of engaging with countries
rather than seeking to isolate them.
Echoing statements by Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, EU sources insisted
it was important to encourage moderates in Iran against clerical and hardline
groups, including those apparently responsible for an arms shipment to the Palestinian
Asked about Mr Bush's approach to the "axis of evil", European Commission spokesman
Gunnar Weigand said senior EU representatives "do not agree with that kind of
The EU shared America's aims on human rights, terrorism and weapons proliferation,
he said, but "what we do not share is the policy desired to achieve these objectives.
We believe that engagement and rapprochement... should be used to achieve these
Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, urged the US to act multilaterally
and not as a "global unilateralist".
Privately, EU diplomats have dismissed Mr Bush's remarks as being made to suit
a domestic audience, and say they are viewed with unease by the secretary of state,
Colin Powell, and other doves in the cabinet. Publicly, they can do little more
than put on a brave face.
The objections are likely to further enrage the Bush administration, which
responded with fury to a comment by Mr Straw on Friday that the "axis of evil"
speech was more of a vote-winning tactic in forthcoming US elections than a military
Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, said: "This is
not about American politics, and I assume that when the British government speaks
about foreign policy, it's not about British politics."
EU foreign ministers are likely to discuss the issue when they meet in the
Spanish town of Caceres at the weekend, where they will have to tread carefully
over a request by Iraq to hold talks with Spain, holder of the EU's rotating presidency
- a clear attempt to exploit transatlantic differences.
European leaders remain dubious about US charges that Iran exports terror or
has links with al-Qaida.
The Russian defence minister, Sergei Ivanov, said on Sunday that there was
no evidence that Iran had connections with terrorist organisations. He said Russia
had its own list of "rogue states" and named the US's ally Saudi Arabia, which
Moscow says helps fund Chechen separatists.
The controversy came as the Bush cabinet asked Congress to double US aid to
Jordan to $448m (£317m) in 2003, in a move to lay the ground for potential
military action against its neighbour, Iraq.
The administration wants to give Jordan $198m in the form of weapons, up from
$75m this year. Economic support funds would rise from $150m to $250m, according
to budget documents.
"The money will be used to improve border controls targeting the flow of weapons,
including weapons of mass destruction, and to support financial training, trade
and investment and to strengthen educational opportunities," the White House office
of management and budget said.
Iraq, Jordan's neighbour to the east, stands accused by the US of developing
nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. On its western border, Jordan has sought
to prevent the smuggling of arms to Palestinians fighting the Israeli occupation
of the West Bank.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2002