updated 3/26/2004 1:18:02 PM ET 2004-03-26T18:18:02

European Union leaders Friday called for a new Security Council resolution to support an increased U.N.  role in Iraq, although they did not directly link it to supplying peacekeepers.

In conclusions to be adopted at the end of their two-day summit, the EU leaders said they “look forward to the U.N. playing a vital and growing role endorsed by the U.N. Security Council in the run-up to transition and beyond.”

Spain’s incoming prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has made it clear he will pull his country’s 1,300 peacekeeping troops out of Iraq by June 30 unless the United Nations takes control of the postwar occupation.

The leaders also agreed to relaunch stalled talks on an EU constitution, with a new deadline of June 17.

The 25 European leaders, including those from the 10 countries that will join May 1, on Friday discussed ways to create jobs and make European business and workers more competitive, with pledges to implement more reforms.

Boosting EU competitiveness
Britain, France and Germany were pushing for a new “super EU commissioner” responsible for boosting industry and jobs at the EU’s executive office, the European Commission.

But in draft conclusions, the leaders made only a vague reference to supporting their “competitiveness agenda” in the next commission, which takes office in November.

They also acknowledged they were in danger of missing their goal of making the EU the most competitive economic bloc in the world by 2010.

“The credibility of the process requires stepping up the pace of reform,” leaders said. Luxembourg even suggested pushing the deadline back to 2012, diplomats said.

On other foreign policy issues, leaders condemned the “extra-judicial” killing of Hamas leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin, whom Israel held responsible for dozens of suicide attacks that have killed hundreds of Israelis.

EU leaders urged the United States to ensure better security in Iraq, condemning recurring deadly attacks against civilians and humanitarian aid groups.

Zapatero’s plan to pull Spanish troops has alarmed Washington and London, but puts Madrid in line with Germany and France—who have refused to send troops to Iraq without a stronger U.N. role.

Spain’s troop commitment makes up one of the largest coalition contributions in Iraq.

Other European nations who have sent peacekeepers and police to Iraq include Britain, Poland, Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Terror action plan
On terrorism, the leaders approved a 15-point action plan in the wake of the March 11 bombings in Madrid.

There is a “very strong sense of unity in Europe at the moment for very obvious reasons,” British Prime Minister Tony Blair said.

The leaders picked former Dutch government official Gijs de Vries as the bloc’s first anti-terror czar to bolster the continent’s defense.

De Vries’s job will be to ensure anti-terrorist measures are correctly implemented by the EU’s foreign affairs, finance and interior departments.

Peter Brom  /  AP file
Former Dutch Deputy Interior Minister Gijs de Vries has been chosen to serve as the EU's anti-terrorism coordinator.
De Vries, a former deputy interior minister who was born in New York but lived most of his life in the Netherlands, will start work Monday and report to Javier Solana, who heads the EU’s foreign and security department.

Leaders adopted other measures including improving police and intelligence cooperation and increasing border controls and tracking of phone records.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, whose country holds the EU presidency, will pursue one-on-one negotiations on the EU constitution with a view to sorting out the most divisive issues before convening another summit.

Talks collapsed in December after Poland and Spain, which would have seen their voting power reduced, refused to go along. The constitution must be agreed unanimously by all 25 current and soon-to-be EU members.

But the March 14 election defeat of Spanish Prime Minister Jose-Maria Aznar’s conservative party by Zapatero raised hopes for movement. Poland also recently said it was open to dialogue.

In addition to a voting formula, Ahern said about 20 items remained to be resolved, including the size of the EU’s executive commission and the number of European Parliament seats.

The constitution is meant to streamline decision-making in a bloc of 25 nations and bolster its role on the world stage, with the creation of an EU president and foreign minister. It also boosts defense cooperation.

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