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EU: Candidate Nations Urged To Endorse Stance On Iraq

Brussels, 18 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- European Union leaders are due to meet with representatives from candidate countries today in Brussels to ask them to endorse the EU's position on Iraq. The EU stance was agreed on yesterday at an emergency summit of EU leaders. The EU leaders demanded more time for UN weapons inspectors, but did not set a deadline. They issued a statement that warned Iraq it has one "last chance" to disarm peacefully.

After the summit, French President Jacques Chirac criticized several EU candidate states that had recently signed pro-American open letters on Iraq. He said they had missed a chance to maintain silence and had displayed "irresponsible behavior."

"I think they have behaved with a certain frivolity, because entering the EU requires a modicum of consideration for the others, a modicum of consultation. If on encountering the first difficulty, we start asserting our own view without regard for others that are part of the integrated whole that we wish to join, then it is irresponsible behavior, not well brought-up. In conclusion, I think the candidates have missed a good occasion to keep silent."

The United Nations today confirmed the first U-2 surveillance plane has flown over Iraq as part of weapons inspections. The United Nations had insisted the flights be allowed without conditions.