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'Old Europe' allies meet in Spain

From CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman

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MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder have visited their new ally in Spain, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who declared the summit showed that "the old Europe is like new."

Zapatero's comments seemed aimed at blunting U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's description of an "old Europe" that opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq, including France and Germany, and a "new Europe" that supported it, including the former Spanish government that Zapatero ousted in elections last March.

Schroeder said that no matter where a nation stood on the Iraq war, it could not feel safe from terrorism.

"Anyone who thought they could escape from that threat is wrong," Schroeder said at a joint news conference the three leaders held after their one-hour meeting in Madrid.

France, which opposed the war, has recently worked to free two French journalists who were kidnapped last month in Iraq.

Chirac said the overall situation in Iraq remained "serious" and "was not getting better," but he did not mention the kidnapped journalists.

France and Germany are the powers pushing a strong, unified European Union, which recently expanded to 25 nations, and in which their countries would have a continuing major role in determining policy.

Chirac and Schroeder have recently held separate, three-way summits with the leaders of Russia and Poland, and Monday it was Spain's turn.

Zapatero, a Socialist, has sought to turn Spain's foreign policy priority back to Europe after his predecessor, Jose Maria Aznar, supported U.S. President George W. Bush on Iraq and even sent Spanish troops, who were later withdrawn by Zapatero.

In Madrid, the leaders said they support ratification by all 25 nations for the European Constitution as the political framework for the alliance.

They also said they agreed on expanding the European Union to even more nations and they discussed improving common security arrangements.


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