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Iran breakthrough proves EU can act without US, says Otte

Although the European Union has always been limited by the US in acting on strategic issues, the breakthrough on Iran's nuclear program shows it can initiate steps by itself, EU Middle East envoy Marc Otte said, IRNA reported from London.

"We have proven on the Iranian issue that if there is a will to act, there is action. Again it is a question of political will to act and to act together," Otte said in an interview with, published Wednesday.

Referring to the initiative being led by Britain, France and Germany, the former Belgian diplomat suggested that some people in the EU "might object that the breakthrough in Iran was something that was done by three countries."

But he insisted that the so-called EU3 had been "careful after the initial push, the initiative has come again under the auspices of the EU and certainly has a European profile."

The envoy was being questioned on whether there was a political will for the EU to be more proactive in the Middle East peace process given the concerns that US President George W. Bush may waiver on his focus on implementing the roadmap during his re-election campaign.

"That's something we must prove," he said, suggesting that it was "up to the Europeans to show that they are capable of being proactive and the ones to lead, to pull the Americans along."

But Otte, who succeeded Miguel Moratinos as the EU's special representative to the peace process last July, also conceded that the Middle East remained "such an overwhelming interest for the US also that acting without the US is basically impossible."

He suggested that the EU could pull the US along to break the present stagnation in the Middle East process by being ready to take added responsibilities and trying to leverage the present situation. "We also have to improve the coherence of our external actions," he said.

The envoy also believed that there should be a better convergence of strategies between Europe and the Arab world and in using its partnerships with the Middle East, including with Iran.

"We should probably look at our relationships with the (Persian) Gulf countries a bit better because they are not part of the Barcelona Process" with the EU's southern neighbors, he said. It should all be fused into "something coherent," he added.

With regard to pursuing a greater Middle East agenda, Otto said it would be discussed at the G8, EU-US summit and Nato summit where two indispensable issues for success were to be discussed.

"One is ownership, local ownership, I mean no patronizing of the Arab countries, no imposition of an agenda," he said. The other was that there was "no substitute for continuing efforts in the Middle East peace process."

... Payvand News - 3/3/04 ... --

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