Leaders of the 15 nation European Union have agreed that U.S. retaliation for last week's attacks on New York and Washington is legitimate, but they say that response should only be targeted at those responsible for the attacks. The EU leaders, meeting at an emergency summit in Brussels, also decided to speed up judicial reforms that would improve the bloc's own ability to fight terrorism.
Emerging from a three-hour emergency summit that was called to show solidarity with the United States, Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, read a joint statement that gives Washington the green light to forcefully respond to last week's terrorist attacks.
Speaking through an interpreter, he said that, under a recently approved United Nations Security Council resolution, the United States has the legitimate right to retaliate against the perpetrators of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
"It seems to me that, unanimously, the European Union has very clearly taken a position on an American riposte based on resolution 1368 and has also indicated that each member state, according to its own means, is prepared to undertake such actions," Mr. Verhofstadt said.
That phrase would clear the way for the British and, perhaps, the French to take part in military operations against terrorists while other EU countries would provide intelligence or moral support to any retaliatory blow.
Mr. Verhofstadt says any action should be targeted at the terrorists responsible for the attacks. But he also says the EU believes it is Washington's right to target countries that support or harbor terrorists.
Still, the EU stresses that it wants the broadest possible anti-terrorist coalition to be built under the auspices of the United Nations. And it rejects any equation of terrorism with Islam.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told reporters the EU is determined to fight terrorism. "We decided about a strong message of solidarity with the United States, including the solidarity related to military action," he said.
Mr. Fischer also says the EU is stepping up its anti-terrorist activity at home. "We decided about a very important package to reinforce the cooperation among the member states within the European Union for a strong action against terrorist activities, including an arrest warrant, European arrest warrant. I think this is very important," said Mr. Fischer.
That arrest warrant, which will eliminate lengthy extradition procedures currently in use, is to be coupled with the creation of a special EU anti-terrorist team that will work closely with its U.S. counterparts.
The leaders also instructed their interior and justice ministers to draw up a single list of suspected terrorists and to agree on a common definition of terrorism that would be included in each country's criminal code.