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US, EU Officials Agree to Closer Cooperation on Air Security

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David Dyar

U.S. and European officials have agreed to work more closely to prevent terrorist attempts on international airlines, like the foiled attack last month on a U.S.-bound flight.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says Europe and the United States need to tighten collaboration on four critical areas when it comes to airport and airline security.  "One is the collection of information and the analysis of information.  The second is the sharing of information.  The collaboration on things such as passenger vetting.  The third is raising collectively international aviation standards.  And the fourth is the development and deployment of information screening and technology and the commitment to put our best minds toward the future iterations of screening and information technology," she said.

Napolitano spoke to reporters during a meeting with European interior ministers in Toledo, Spain.  The talks come a month after a Nigerian man tried to detonate a bomb aboard a U.S.-bound airliner that took off from the Netherlands.  Al-Qaida terrorists also used airlines in the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Security concerns were raised on Wednesday, when Munich's airport temporarily closed after a man's laptop computer set off alarms that indicated explosives might be present.  The incident caused a cascade of flight cancellations and delays.

Washington has been pushing for body scanners to be installed in all airports.  Napolitano said 450 would be in place at U.S. airports by the year's end, compared to 40 today.  But EU nations are divided over the use of such scanners, with some critics calling them too intrusive.

Napolitano said body scanners were only one option in a host of security instruments.  What was important, she said, was to prevent al-Qaida from carrying out a terrorist attack.  "They want to.  We want to deprive them of that opportunity.  Now what do we need to do together and how do we do it together to minimize any risk at all to the citizenry of all of our countries that they will be able to successfully carry out such an attack?  They clearly intend to do so," she said.

The interior minister of Spain, who currently holds the rotating European Union presidency, said the EU needs to strike a common position on body scanners and to speed up establishing a common security system for Europe.

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