Western European News Digest
Spanish Diplomacy Supports Beilin's 'Madrid II' Proposal
Upon his return from a trip to Tehran last week, former Spanish Foreign Minister Juan Gonzales (Socialist) summarized his findings, stating that he sees the threats against Iran as "useless." What is important, he said, is that there is a margin to negotiate, not only the nuclear issue, but also the participation of Iran in "regional stability." Gonzales said that before his trip, in August, he had discussed the matter with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. "The objective must be to establish a climate of dialogue and conversations to know if we can come to agreement on the basis of mutual confidence." He also said that there is "no historical memory about a war, provoked by Iran."
Gonzales' trip must be seen in the context of an interview that former Israeli Cabinet member Yossi Beilin gave to the Aug. 25 issue of El Pais, commenting upon his proposal for a Madrid II Middle East conference. Outlining that the EU would have to play a role in this effort as well, he had specifically pointed to the role of Spain, and named the Foreign Minister, in facilitating the initiative: "Sincerely I think that Miguel Angel Moratinos can be the one that begins the process, because he knows best the issues involved. Moratinos is a man of peace and if he should launch Madrid II, this would have to be taken into account."
EU Calls for New Mideast Deployment To Include Syria
Speaking in the name of the European Union, Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuamoioja said the EU wants to revive the so-called Road Map and the Quartet of Middle East mediators (the EU, the UN, the U.S., and Russia), according to Ha'aretz Sept. 2. Finland holds this semester's rotating EU presidency. Tuamoioja said, "Solana has the mandate ... to move forward with the peace process and present us with the new ideas necessary." He went on to say Solana will be "in contact with all parties that are relevant," notably Syria. "It is up to Syria to choose the role it wants to play. We want it to play a constructive role." He also called for strengthening Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and opening contacts with Hamas after it accepts the conditions by which the EU has asked it to abide.
German Officials Speak Out vs. Iran Military Action
In recent days, various German officials, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, have stated that Germany sees no military option to solve the Iran crisis. In an ARD TV interview Sept. 4, Merkel, asked about Germany's policy toward Iran replied clearly, "Diplomacy is the only solution.... A military option does not exist." She underlined that she has had recently "many discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin." Asked about Rumsfeld's recent outburst against "Islamo-fascists," she avoided a direct answer, and instead reiterated, "I see no military option."
State Secretary of the Foreign Ministry Gernot Erler echoed Merkel in an interview with Tagesspiegel, and similarly, Henner Fuertig, a renowned Hamburg-based East Institute expert, called sanctions an "edgeless sword," and noted that there are already indications that Russia and China will not back them.
Chirac Changes Tune, Talks Bellicosely Against Iran
Speaking to the Council of Ministers at the Elysee on Aug. 30, French President Jacques Chirac took a grave tone, according to last week's Canard Enchaine: "The negotiations with the Iranians can generate grave events which could have consequences worldwide," he said. "One cannot exclude an armed intervention against Iran. I ask each of you to look closely at what is happening over there." He underlined this with a tirade against "Bush's Manicheanism," which "has sparked a ravaging effect in the world and could create the conditions of a major wave of terrorism." According to Chirac, issues with the Iranian authorities should have been "negotiated otherwise," with emphasis on "collaboration in the civilian nuclear field, but now it's too late."
This comes a week after the French President had called for the reconstruction of Lebanon, and a reconvening of the "Quartet" of nations to solve the Palestinian problem, in an address to the country's ambassadors (see EIW #35, Europe Digest). Chirac's eventual conclusion, that "France has an independent voice within the concert of nations, because it doesn't bend to American dictates," rings false after these statements.
Ambassador Forced Blair To Change Lebanon Policy
In what the Sept. 2 London Times called another blow to British Prime Minister Tony Blair's credibility, it is now being reported that during the Lebanon war, the outgoing British Ambassador to the U.S., Sir David Manning, sent Blair an impassioned letter bemoaning the failure of British policy. Manning called on Blair to end his support for the Bush Administration's hard-line policy and begin support for a ceasefire. Manning made his opinions known to Blair personally July 28, during Blair's visit to the United States. Manning advised Blair to work with moderates in the Administration such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and to push for a ceasefire, which Blair evidently did. Manning warned Blair that if the war continued, it could spread throughout the region with a real possibility of an Israeli attack on Syria.
Sir David has been Blair's key foreign policy advisor since 9/11. Prior to becoming Ambassador to Washington, he had been Ambassador to Israel. The Times apparently has a copy of his letter, but the Foreign Office threatened to take legal action if it is printed.
Bush Admission on CIA Prison Camps Draws Sharp Response
The vice chair of the European Parliamentary inquiry into the CIA detention camps, Sarah Ludford, noted that President Bush's admission, that the CIA maintains prison camps in around the world, "exposes to ridicule those arrogant government leaders in Europe who dismissed as unfounded our fears about 'extraordinary rendition.'" Hitting British Prime Minister Tony Blair in particular, she said that Blair may be loyal to Bush, but "when it suits him, Bush will turn around and pull the rug out from under his feet."
The other major investigation was carried out by the Council of Europe, headed by Swiss Senator Dick Marty. Marty released a report in June concluding that 14 European countries were complicit, despite government denials. He said that "throughout this affair, as with the war on Iraq, we have been told countless lies." He says the full truth has yet to emerge.
Anti-Blair Revolt in Labor Party Escalates
Clearly, Tony Blair is in for some turbulent weeks, indicated by a report in the Guardian Sept. 2, saying that Labour Members of Parliament plan a no-confidence vote soon, to drive Blair out of office. For such a motion, 72 MPs are required, and 80 Labour MPs are said to already support such a motion. The vote could come as soon as when Parliament reconvenes in early October, after the summer recess.
And, it is not "just backbenchers" who are out to force Blair's exit. Pete Willsman, a member of the party's national executive committee, sent out a letter to all constituency party secretaries, charging Blair with "the disastrous U.K. policy of following the U.S. [which] has contributed to the latest tragedy in the Middle East... The only way to change the policy is to elect a new leader," Willsman advised.
France To Supply Nuclear Fuel to India
Indian Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who visited France last week, is reportedly working with his French counterpart, Michèle Aliote-Marie, on a "broad agreement" whereby France will supply nuclear reactors to India that would meet New Delhi commercial energy needs, said French Defense Ministry spokesman, Jean François. "We understand the critical energy needs of India and the process for a broad agreement on supply of nuclear reactors and fissile material is at a crucial stage," François said.
Reports indicate both countries also discussed India's requests for collaboration in high-tech weapons systems and progress in the current weapons supply projects.
Belgian Police Arrest Neo-Nazi Group in Military
The Belgian authorities arrested 17 neo-Nazis who were planning terror attacks on state buildings, embassies, and other targets. Eleven of those arrested were in the military and were active on five military bases including Leopoldberg, Belgium's largest.
The group was a breakaway faction from the Blood and Honor neo-Nazi group. It is called Bloed, Bodem, Eer, Trouw (Blood, Soil, Honor, Loyalty). At least one member was linked to the ultra-right-wing party Vlaams Belang Party which has at least 25 seats in the Belgian Parliament. The leader of the group is one Thomas Boutsen, a sergeant in the army. They had international links with the Nationale Alliante (National Alliance) based in the Netherlands, U.S. neo-Nazis, including the National Alliance of the late William Pierce, and to Professor Robert S. Griffin of Vermont University, who has written a biography of Pierce, and is himself a self-described "white racialist."