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Europe Fears More Isolationist US Policies

Europeans appear to be worried that the Republican victory in the U.S. mid-term elections will embolden President Bush, if he decides to launch a military strike against Iraq. European diplomats and analysts are concerned that the Republican election gains may encourage the Bush administration to act even more independently of its allies than it already does.

A headline in the left-of-center French newspaper, Liberation, sums up what many Europeans see as Mr. Bush's penchant for acting alone, without consulting his allies. "Hyper-Bush," it says, over a cartoon of the U.S. president, dressed in American football gear and carrying the globe. Liberation says a U.S. strike against Iraq now seems certain.

In Britain, The Times of London headlines its editorial on the Republican victory, "Master of the Universe." The British newspaper says the election results increase Mr. Bush's authority to take action against Iraq, if Iraq obstructs United Nations weapons inspectors.

In Germany, The Financial Times Deutschland says a war against Iraq is not a certainty, but has become more likely, following the Republican victory. The business daily also predicts tension between the Bush administration and the government of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder will increase, because of Mr. Schroeder's rejection of any German role in a war on Iraq.

There has been little government reaction.

Romano Prodi, the head of the European Commission, told reporters in Brussels he does not see any change, either positive or negative, in U.S. relations with the European Union.

Much of Europe has, for months now, been voicing concern about U.S. calls for "regime change" in Iraq, and has criticized Mr. Bush on such issues as global warming, the United Nations war crimes court and his branding of Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an "axis of evil."

Analyst Daniel Keohane, of the Center for European Reform in London, says Europeans worry that the Republican majority in Congress could spur the Bush administration to continue going its own way on global issues.

"While Europeans already have some concerns about perceived unilateralism on the part of the Bush administration, chances of this continuing certainly seem to be enhanced by the results, from the European point of view," he said.

A top European Union diplomat says that, with the Democrats losing influence in Washington, the European Union has lost hope of any shift in Bush administration thinking, or any chance that the EU can provide alternatives to U.S. policies. Mr. Keohane says Europe will now find it difficult to speak with a united voice, especially on Iraq.

"On most other issues, the Europeans find it relatively easy to reach agreement, and, eventually, to reach agreement with the U.S. as well," said Mr. Keohane. "But on Iraq, it's different, because of the differing positions between the U.K. and France, in particular. So, particularly if the U.K. maintains its special relationship, its closer policy to the U.S., it will be exceptionally difficult for the Europeans to forge their own common policy."

EU diplomats say the election could make it more difficult to achieve the bloc's aim of engaging the United States on a series of foreign policy and trade issues, especially if the new Congress turns out to be more isolationist than its predecessor.