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         Defense takes second place as flood clean-up battle absorb funds

         "EU must adopt new defense policy approach, does not yet know the direction"


         Belgium warns Iraq to act or face isolation


         Daily: Europeans want to head off confrontation with U.S. over the ICC


         Belgian media: Terrorists were planning an attack on the Kleine Brogel base




         According to the Financial Times, the multi-billion-euro cost of cleaning up after this month's floods in Europe could make military capabilities targets set by NATO and the EU's ESDP almost impossible to meet by the planned dates.  Officials from Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have already said expenditure will have to be shifted from defense to repairing infrastructure, says the newspaper.  It recalls that NATO was hoping to use the Prague summit to take stock of its ambitious Defense Capabilities Initiatives while the Europeans, still hoping to have a 60,000 strong rapid reaction force in place by next June, set up their own "Headline Goals" agenda more than two years ago.  The newspaper quotes an unidentified EU military official saying, however:  "For the moment, politicians cannot justify spending on defense when houses and railway tracks have been destroyed..  The floods might just show why there is even more of a need to rationalize and cooperate on crucial equipment. But don't bet on that view prevailing." The newspaper considers that "if European governments were searching for reasons for spending less on defense, the floods have provided the perfect excuse." 


         Lt. Gen. Schuwirth, chief of the EU's Military Staff in Brussels, said that "the term rapid reaction force or EU force is misleading.  It would only be correct to talk about the EU's military capability," writes Frankfurter Rundschau, commenting: "The normal mind may not understand the difference between 'forces' and 'capabilities.' For the military and the politicians, however, this is a sensitive item:  they know what they would like to keep, their national armies. They know what they would like to receive on top of it, a military arm for the EU. However, they do not know whether this would make sense from the security point of view."  Claiming that "the EU knows that it has to adapt a novel defense policy approach but does not yet know the direction," the article adds:  "Governments realize that calculations they made in 1999 do not work.  It would have been to good to be true:  Everybody provides a few soldiers, aircraft and ships, and NATO provides the planning, command structures and reconnaissance." But, the article stresses, among other things, an agreement on the EU's use of NATO assets remains deadlocked.  The article continues: "Since experienced diplomats in Brussels have abandoned their hope to solve the matter, new considerations have been given to an increased independence of ESDP..  The clear tendency toward an increased European independence was accelerated after Sept. 11.  The fact that the U.S. no long relies on partnership coalitions made the Europeans ponder.  Should they take the politically courageous, but also expensive step and set up a real independent foreign policy and security policy, without any dependence from NATO or the U.S?..  Is Europe at the crossroads between being a military assistance force for the U.S. and NATO and an independent power with a military weight?..  It is said that the transatlantic partnership and NATO were and would remain the pillars of the European defense.  However, the louder these confessions, the less involvement they seem to include.  Occasionally, they abuse logic in order to hide that the farewell to the old alliances has begun."




         Reuters quotes Belgian Foreign Minister Michel saying in an interview Thursday that the EU will find it hard to oppose any U.S. strike on Iraq if Baghdad keeps refusing to abide by UN resolutions.  According to the dispatch, Michel said EU foreign ministers should discuss the Iraq issue at a meeting this weekend.  "The EU should take an initiative to Baghdad and say very clearly:  you swiftly and completely abide by the UN resolutions (to allow UN weapons inspectors to return) or you will remain alone to face your problems."  He reportedly added that Europeans "will find it very difficult to remain squarely opposed to a preventive strike" if Saddam Hussein refused.  Another Reuters dispatch highlights that Michel's remarks, along with a suggestion by Foreign Secretary Straw Thursday that Britain may consider pressing for a deadline by which Iraq had to comply with the resolutions, marked a subtle European shift in tone.  "In Europe, NATO allies have repeatedly said they opposed a strike..  But Belgium and Britain (are now putting) the onus on Iraq to prove it is sticking to UN resolutions if it wants to avert an attack," the dispatch observes.


Media continue to focus on the debate over the possibility of a U.S. military attack on Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein.

Despite the United States' threat to attack Iraq, military experts do not yet see any indications of a massive military operation, writes Berliner Zeitung.  The newspaper quotes German and NATO experts noting that while preparations for a major attack would take the U.S. armed forces at least six months, Washington has not yet deployed major troops contingents to the Gulf region.  Therefore, adds the newspaper, these experts say such a military campaign is not to be expected before spring of 2003. According to the estimation by NATO circles, the United States will have to deploy at least 200,000 soldiers to defeat Iraq.  Therefore, the U.S. armed forces will probably also call their reservists.  "Then, it is no longer possible to keep it a secret," it is said in NATO circles, adds the daily. 

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung notes meanwhile that NATO continues to adhere to its line that a discussion over Iraq is not envisioned at the informal NATO summit in Warsaw next month.






         According to the Financial Times, EU foreign ministers want to head off a confrontation with the U.S. over the future workings of the International Criminal Court (ICC), in a move that could have member states challenging a recent legal opinion by the European Commission. The article quotes diplomats saying that at their meeting in Denmark, starting Friday, several foreign ministers are expected to distance themselves from the Commission's legal opinion.  The Commission has concluded that signatories to the ICC would violate the treaty if they signed bilateral accords with Washington exempting U.S. personnel from being handed over to the court for prosecution over alleged war crimes. But an EU diplomat said Wednesday the member states, not the commission, had the final word in adopting a common position on the ICC, specifically over how the accords were legally interpreted, adds the article.  It also quotes a U.S. State Department official saying the United States hoped the EU foreign ministers would find a compromise this weekend, as their own legal advisers would meet on Sept. 4 to give their opinion on the status of the accords with the U.S.  The official reportedly insisted that the U.S. had no interest in seeking a confrontation with the Europeans.  "Under pressure from the U.S., the EU is considering allowing member countries to give American personnel limited immunity from the ICC, a tribunal that has driven a wedge in trans-Atlantic relations," says a related Wall Street Journal article.  Die Welt writes that behind close doors, there is unrest within the Alliance regarding the ICC issue. "There is clearly a disagreement between the Europeans and the Americans, and we take that very seriously," the newspaper quotes a NATO official saying.  It adds, however, that the official thought an escalation was unlikely.  




The announcement by a Rotterdam court that three alleged Moslem extremists arrested in the Netherlands on terrorism charges were plotting to attack a U.S. military base in Belgium has renewed speculation in the Belgian media that the target was the Kleine Brogel air base.

Le Soir notes that the Dutch prosecutor declined to indicate which base was targeted by the alleged terrorists.  But adds the daily, "there is no doubt that it was Kleine Brogel.  Since last June, several Belgian sources have confirmed that Nizar Trabelsi, who maintained contacts with the men arrested in the Netherlands and who was arrested in Belgium last September, told investigators he was planning to perpetrate an attack on that base."  The article continues: "Why would the base be a target for terrorists?  Because U.S. military are stationed there. Their mission is connected to the presence in a bunker on the base of a dozen B-61 U.S. nuclear bombs."  The article adds, however, that this information has never been officially confirmed.  La Libre Belgique stresses that the Dutch prosecutor's announcement confirms the thesis that Trabelsi was planning an attack against Kleine Brogel.  De Standaard carries related information under the title,  "Moslem extremists were targeting Kleine Brogel." 




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