The leaders of France, Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg have discussed strengthening European military capability and cooperation during a meeting in Brussels. The meeting was called by Belgium's prime minister, Guy Verhofstadt, during the U.S.-led war on Iraq.
All four countries attending the half-day defense mini-summit, France, Germany, and Luxembourg, as well as Belgium, have strongly opposed the war. France, in particular, has been sharply criticized by U.S. and British officials for its vigorous anti-war stance.
In an interview published Monday in the Financial Times, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, while not directly mentioning the summit, criticized those European countries who intended "to set Europe up in opposition to America".
During a visit to Paris last week, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Robert Bradtke also criticized the invitation-only summit as a diversion in building up relations between NATO and the European Union.
Leaders attending the summit have taken pains to counter the criticism. A statement Monday from French President Jacques Chirac said the summit aimed to reinforce the European pillar of NATO. Leaders from Belgium and Luxembourg have also defended the summit as a way to present new steps to build up European defense to reinforce NATO, an effort the United States supports.