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Three Way European Summit Focuses on Iraq - 2003-05-09

The leaders of France, Germany and Poland have pledged to cooperate more closely on foreign policy and defense despite a damaging rift over the U.S.-led war in Iraq. France and Germany opposed the war, but it was supported by Poland. Even though the leaders glossed over their differences, they also reaffirmed their positions on the Iraq issue after concluding a three-way summit in the Polish city of Wroclaw.

At a post-summit news conference, French President Jacques Chirac said France and Germany are ready to talk about Iraq's reconstruction and ways to restore its sovereignty. He said both countries would discuss a U.S.-backed proposal to end United Nations sanctions against Iraq in what he called an open and constructive manner.

But Mr. Chirac insisted that the United Nations must play a central role in Iraq's reconstruction because that, "is the desire of most of the world's nations and peoples."

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said Germany, France and Poland pledged to give humanitarian aid to Iraq. But he said Germany also wants to make sure the U.N. is involved in Iraq's reconstruction.

"All of us, Germans, French and Poles, will provide the assistance that we are able to give to prevent human suffering in Iraq," he said. "And speaking now for myself, we would certainly explore the avenues available to us within the United Nations when it comes to rebuilding the country."

The French and German leaders also insisted that a mini-summit they held in Brussels last month with their counterparts from Belgium and Luxembourg to discuss ways of making Europe's defense less reliant on the United States was not aimed at undermining NATO. And they invited Poland to join their efforts.

But Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski, whose country sent 200 special forces troops to Iraq to fight alongside the Americans, said his goal was to have good relations with both Washington and the anti-war governments of France and Germany.

"We will continue the policy of good coalition relations with both the United States and Germany and France," he said.

Poland sees itself has having a bridge-building role between the United States and the Franco-German duo. It has been strongly criticized by France and Germany for backing the United States in the Iraq war. But it also knows it needs good relations with the two anti-war dissidents when it joins the European Union next year. Polish analyst Adam Chmielewski says Poland is caught in the middle of the transatlantic dispute.

"It seems to me that Poland has no choice," he said. "It is a poor country and tries to make the best of both sides [with its] accession to the European structures [and] at the same time by getting involved in American policies."

President Kwasniewski says he thinks the United States still has a vital role to play in Europe's security and that Poland must work hard for both European unity and transatlantic unity.