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Blair speech seeks to bridge U.S.-Europe chasm

/ Source: The Associated Press

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

In a speech to the Lord Mayor’s banquet, Blair also said democracy is the key to stability in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East, according to a text released in advance.

“Democracy is the meeting point for Europe and America. I am 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,” Blair’s prepared remarks said.

“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.”

Diplomatic bridge
Blair views Britain as an important diplomatic bridge between America and mainland Europe, and he believes that as President Bush’s closest overseas ally he can help heal divisions that emerged over the Iraq war.

The importance of repairing strained ties was central to Blair’s talks with Bush last week in Washington. Following their summit, the president said he would visit Europe after his Jan. 20 inauguration.

“It is not a sensible or intelligent response for us in Europe to ridicule American arguments and parody their political leadership. What’s entirely sensible, however, is for Europe to say that terrorism won’t be beaten by toughness alone,” Blair said in his prepared address Monday.

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

“Neither Europe nor the U.S. should be arrogant about the other ... 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,” Blair’s speech said.

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

“The only stable Afghanistan will be a democratic Afghanistan. Ultimately, it is democracy in Iraq that will defeat the insurgents,” he said in Monday’s speech. “The only viable Palestinian state will not just be based on territory but on democratic values.”