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Originally trumpeted as the meeting that would set the stage for a pan-European military command completely outside of NATO, Tuesday’s mini-summit of four nations opposed to war in Iraq is expected to mull over measures far less ambitious.

The talks in Brussels by the leaders of France, Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg may nonetheless highlight differences in the way the United States and Europe view the military’s role in the post-Sept. 11 era.

America is concerned with intervening in the Middle East to fight terrorism, one analyst said, while Europe has been organizing itself to defuse closer-to-home conflicts, like those that erupted in the Balkans. And some in Europe want the ability to use those forces without U.S. approval, yet they also worry when the United States decides to go it alone, as in Iraq.

“Washington, being the lone superpower, will still have to listen to its partners if they don't want to be a lonesome superpower at some point,” said Otfried Nassauer, director of the Berlin Information-center for Transatlantic Security in Germany.

The four national leaders will meet in Brussels to discuss European security in general, but aren’t expected to tackle the idea of an independent military headquarters to rival NATO, sources familiar with the talks said Monday. No official itinerary has been announced.

Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt came up with idea in February while NATO was gridlocked over whether to defend Turkey were it attacked by Iraq. France, Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg all protested against the measure. And once they forged their plan to discuss a new all-Euro headquarters, Britain was notably not on the guest list.

Privately, some U.S. officials believe the whole thing was simply a political maneuver: Belgium’s elections are in May.

Now that Baghdad has fallen, however, France and Germany are eager to mend fences with the United States and Britain.

“They don’t have an interest in creating an even bigger rift,” Nassauer said. “They will try to soften the language.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz recently told Congress that France, in particular, would suffer consequences for damaging NATO. France, however, has reportedly stopped a high-level meeting of Bush aides designed, it feared, to find ways to punish America’s oldest ally.

Americans and Europeans, apparently, are trying to move on after Iraq. Officially, few wanted to weigh in on how the summit would affect NATO or the United States.

A European Union Council spokeswoman was quick to say the meeting is not an EU-thrown party, but was Belgium’s idea. Simone de Manso Cabral, a NATO spokeswoman in Brussels, said she couldn’t comment.

“NATO does not have a view on this,” she said.

And despite Wolfowitz’s earlier comment on France, Maj. Tim Blair, a Pentagon spokesman, said the summit wasn’t a concern as far as he knew.

“We have bilateral discussions with all those different folks all the time,” he said.

Some Europeans believe there are still real issues to tackle in the meeting.

“Europeans were told, for 50 years, not to engage globally. Now Washington wants them to,” Nassauer said, referring to the war on terror.

And America and Europe are still trying to agree on a vision for future peacekeeping forces. Both NATO and the European Union desire large rapid-reaction forces, but many European countries plan to attach the same units to both efforts.

“If Europe is going to create a crisis management capability, which Europe is going to pay for, is Europe capable of using these, or only when NATO agrees?” Nassauer asked.

“Why should they pay for something they cannot use without approval from the outside?”


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