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Eight leaders back U.S. on Iraq

Nations declare 'transatlantic bond'

Anti-war protests continuing to spread across Europe
Anti-war protests continuing to spread across Europe

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Eight European leaders have declared their solidarity with the U.S. in dealing with Iraq, saying the 9/11 attacks "showed just how far terrorists -- the enemies of our common values -- are prepared to go."

In their solidarity statement published in newspapers across Europe on Thursday, the leaders of Britain, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland declared that it was vital to preserve unity and cohesion now "more than ever before."

"We know that success in the day-to-day battle against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction demands unwavering determination and firm international cohesion on the part of all countries for whom freedom is precious," they said in the statement.

"The attacks of September 11 showed just how far terrorists -- the enemies of our common values -- are prepared to go to destroy them. Those outrages were an attack on all of us. In standing firm in defense of these principles, the governments and people of the U.S. and Europe have amply demonstrated the strength of their convictions. Today more than ever, the transatlantic bond is a guarantee of our freedom."

The joint statement is signed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair; Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi; Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar; Portuguese Prime Minister Jose-Manuel Durao Barroso; Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen; Czech President Vaclav Havel; Hungarian Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy; and Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller.

Noticeably absent were Germany and France, which have expressed opposition to the U.S. stance on Iraq and the possibility of military action to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

White House officials said they welcome the declaration as proof of Europe's support for President Bush's position. It also proves that only a minority of European nations are opposed to Bush's stance regarding Iraq, they said.

'Last chance to disarm'

Thursday's statement also said the Iraqi government and its reputed weapons of mass destruction "represent a clear threat to world security," which the United Nations "explicitly recognised," the statement said. All nations also are bound by Security Council Resolution 1441, which was adopted unanimously last November, the statement said.

"Resolution 1441 is Saddam Hussein's last chance to disarm using peaceful means," the statement said. "The opportunity to avoid greater confrontation rests with him. Sadly, this week the U.N. weapons inspectors have confirmed that his long-established pattern of deception, denial and non-compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions is continuing."

The leaders' statement also sympathises with the Iraqi people, "the first victims of Iraq's current brutal regime."

"Our goal is to safeguard world peace and security by ensuring that this regime gives up its weapons of mass destruction. Our governments have a common responsibility to face this threat. Failure to do so would be nothing less than negligent to our own citizens and to the wider world," the statement said.

Saddam must comply with the U.N. Security Council's resolutions, the statement continued.

"We cannot allow a dictator to systematically violate those resolutions. If they are not complied with, the Security Council will lose its credibility and world peace will suffer as a result."

The statement also said the United States and Europe share a "real bond" of shared values -- democracy, individual freedom, human rights and the rule of law.

"These values crossed the Atlantic with those who sailed from Europe to help create the United States of America," the leaders said in the statement. "Today they are under greater threat than ever."

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