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Solana sees improved EU-U.S. relations
Updated: 2005-02-16 09:58

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana expressed confidence Tuesday that Europe and the United States can narrow their differences over Iran and China ahead of a summit next week.

In an interview with the Associated Press, he said Europe and America had overcome divisions wrought by the Iraq war and that relations were entering a new phase of cooperation ahead of next week's visit to Brussels by President Bush.

"We are overcoming a period ... linked to Iraq that has had some tension between the Europeans and Americans," Solana said. "This is over. What we have to do is look to the future."

Solana praised a new call from German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to revamp NATO and establish more direct contact between the United States and the 25-nation EU. He brushed aside concerns that could undermine NATO.

"I don't think anybody should be worried about that," Solana said. "This is an initiative that goes in the direction of making more effective the trans-Atlantic relationship."

Opposition politicians in Germany claimed Schroeder's plan risked bypassing NATO, and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld stressed this weekend that U.S.-European relations should stay focused on the alliance.

On China, he sought to assure Washington over its concerns that a proposed end to the EU's arms embargo would lead to high-tech European arms ratcheting up an east Asian arms race, or even threatening U.S. Pacific forces.

"The question of the arms embargo should be considered as a political decision, not a military decision," Solana said.

He said a European "code of conduct" would continue to limit EU arms sales even if the embargo was dropped in a political signal to "a new generation of Chinese leaders."

With such guarantees he hoped to "make an understanding" with Washington on the embargo and develop "with the United States a more strategic dialogue, not only on this issue but on many other issues in relations with China."

Solana urged the United States to become more active in supporting European diplomatic efforts to persuade Iran to drop activities that could be used to develop nuclear weapons.

"For the Americans it's much more difficult to get engaged because they don't have diplomatic relations with Iran for many, many years, for 20 years, and they don't want to legitimize the regime," Solana said.

"We hope that as things evolve positively they will continued to support (diplomatic efforts) in a more active manner."

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