Powell urges Europe to look beyond Iraq

Secretary of state trying to heal rifts over invasion

The World

December 09, 2004|By Cam Simpson | Cam Simpson,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

BRUSSELS, Belgium -Preparing yesterday to face a fresh rift among NATO allies over Iraq, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell urged Europe to look beyond its differences with Washington over the invasion and embrace bolder action for "fundamental change" in the world, especially the Middle East.

"I know that some of [President Bush's] key decisions these last four years have been controversial in Europe, especially decisions that were made about Iraq," Powell told university students and NATO diplomats at the Transatlantic Center of the German Marshall Fund.

"Whatever our differences about the past, about Iraq, we are now looking forward," he said. "We're reaching out to Europe, and we hope that Europe will reach out to us."

But Powell's hopes - he is here, in part, to pave the way for a Bush fence-mending mission to Europe in February - could be dealt a setback today.

Some NATO members - including France, Germany and Spain - appear ready to stand firm in their refusal to allow their officers to participate in a training mission for Iraqi security forces. The issue is sure to be raised when ministers of the 26-member trans-Atlantic alliance meet here at NATO headquarters today, officials said.

A senior diplomat said it would most likely be the first time in the 55-year history of NATO that member countries have barred their officers from participating in one of the organization's missions.

Not only have some NATO members decided to keep their forces out of Iraq, but they also have declined to allow officers from their militaries posted at NATO offices in Belgium and in Norfolk, Va., to assist with the Iraqi training mission, which was unveiled in June.

Powell spoke of the training mission in his speech without mentioning the rift. But he also said, "More than ever before, we need to mobilize our resources and place our partnership at the world's service. That's the future of the trans-Atlantic partnership, and my trip this week illustrates the point."

The senior diplomat, who spoke to reporters here on condition of anonymity, said, "We have a basic disagreement - `we' meaning the great majority of countries in NATO." He also said: "Having said that, there's no sense of crisis in the alliance over this. We're going to go ahead and resource the NATO mission in Iraq."

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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