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Europe's leaders discuss security

BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The European Union is meeting with its neighbours to discuss improving cooperation from Iceland to Russia.

Foreign ministers from 13 EU countries as well as non-EU countries in western Europe -- Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein -- were attending Saturday's conference in Belgium.

Russia, Ukraine and Moldova were also being included in a working lunch "in view of the importance of the subject," according to a Belgian government statement.

Delegates were to report on steps they have taken in the war on terror and discuss ways to coordinate efforts, especially in such areas as cutting off funding for terror groups and cracking down on money laundering.

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They also were looking to intensify information exchanges on "the new terrorist threat posed by biological and chemical weapons," the government statement said.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Guenter Verheugen welcomed Turkish Foreign Minister Ismail Cem outside the Egmont Palace.

He praised the "very positive and constructive role" Turkey has played in the aftermath of the attacks on the United States.

"In the future Turkey will be even more important for Europe," Verheugen said.

On Friday, EU leaders held a summit in Ghent pledging their continued support for the U.S.-led campaign against Afghanistan's Taliban regime for harbouring terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden.

Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt said the United States had asked the EU for specific help in three areas: judicial assistance and extradition, stopping proliferation of biological, chemical and nuclear material that could be used as weapons, and cracking down on forged documents, such as passports and visas.

But the EU toned down its tough earlier language which had called the overthrow of the ruling Taliban a "legitimate objective" of the anti-terror campaign.

The latest draft said: "Starting now, under the auspices of the United Nations, we must work toward the emergence of a stable government, representative of all the Afghan people and respectful of human rights and the development of good relations with all neighbouring countries."

French President Jacques Chirac said: "The Afghans must create a stable, representative government that prevents the resurgence of terrorism on their territory."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said after the meeting: "We also laid great stress on the humanitarian crisis and the need to do everything we could, both individually and as the EU, to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people."


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• European Union

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