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Blair urges Europe, US to work together

LONDON -- Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, seeking to repair ties between the United States and Europe, urged Washington yesterday to reach out to its allies and not depend on military force alone in the global fight against terrorism.

In a keynote speech on foreign policy, Blair said democracy is crucial to stability in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Middle East. He urged European leaders to work more closely with President Bush, and cautioned Washington against pursuing a unilateral foreign policy.

"Democracy is the meeting point for Europe and America," he added. "I am not, repeat not, advocating a series of military solutions to achieve it. What I am saying is that patiently but plainly Europe and America should be working together to bring the democratic, human, political rights that we take for granted to the world.

"None of this will work, however, unless America too reaches out. Multilateralism that works should be its aim. I have no sympathy for unilateralism for its own sake."

Blair views Britain as an important diplomatic bridge between America and continental Europe, and thinks that as Bush's closest overseas ally he can help heal divisions that emerged over the war.

The importance of repairing ties was central to his talks in Washington last week with Bush. After that summit, Bush announced that he will visit Europe after his Jan. 20 inauguration.

Blair also will discuss the importance of strengthened trans-Atlantic relations with President Jacques Chirac of France, a fierce critic of the Iraq war, during talks in London on Thursday, aides said.

Blair acknowledged that the war had "dramatically surfaced differences between Europe and America and Britain's role in both alliances."

"The relationship is under question as never before. So now is the time to defend it," he said, addressing the Lord Mayor's banquet in central London.

"Neither Europe nor the US should be arrogant about the other. Here there's an opportunity for Europe. American policy is evolving. Increasingly both Europe and America are coming to realize that lasting security against fanatics and terrorists cannot be provided by conventional military force, but requires a commitment to democracy, freedom, and justice.

"The only stable Afghanistan will be a democratic Afghanistan. Ultimately, it is democracy in Iraq that will defeat the insurgents, which is why they are so desperate to stop it. The only viable Palestinian state will not just be based on territory but on democratic values."

In Washington on Friday, Blair and Bush pledged to mobilize international support for securing peace in the Middle East, as well as helping the Palestinian Authority build a solid economic infrastructure, civil administration, and security apparatus.

Blair staunchly backed the US-led war in Iraq, despite opposition at home and in European capitals. Blair has acknowledged that his close alliance with Bush, who is disliked by a wide section of the British public and lampooned in newspaper cartoons as a gun-toting cowboy, has been politically damaging.

But he insisted America was an important ally that Britain must value.

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