- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 15, 2001

BRUSSELS European Union leaders agreed yesterday that all 15 of their nations were willing to send troops to Afghanistan as part of an international force to keep peace after the defeat of the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies.

The agreement to contribute as many as 4,000 European troops to the security force, which is awaiting a U.N. mandate, came at the start of a two-day summit.

"This is an important precedent for the EU," said Belgian Foreign Minister Louis Michel, who announced the decision at a news conference.

The speed of the decision underlined increased unity among the Europeans after the September 11 terror attacks on the United States, although leaders stressed their nations were putting units at the service of the international force, rather than launching an EU initiative.

British and French troops are expected to make up the bulk of the contribution, with other nations offering smaller, specialized units.

Portuguese Foreign Minister Jaime Gama said his country would offer a C-130 transport plane and a military medical unit. His Swedish counterpart, Anna Lindh, spoke of deploying an intelligence unit.

The force is expected to head to Afghanistan in the next few weeks to support the interim administration taking power in Kabul Dec. 22.

Britain is expected to lead the force and was playing host to talks with top military commanders in London yesterday on its role and composition.

The United States, Turkey, Canada and Jordan attended those talks and were likely to be among non-EU nations participating.

U.S. envoy James F. Dobbins said officials in London have not yet agreed to the composition of the Afghan force, and that British and American officials will be heading to Kabul to look at the situation and decide the appropriate size.

In New York, the U.N. Security Council was discussing the mechanics of setting up the multinational security force, and diplomats said yesterday a resolution authorizing its deployment would not be adopted until next week.

In Brussels, the EU leaders also approved measures setting up unprecedented cooperation among law-enforcement agencies of the 15 nations to tackle terrorism and other serious crimes.

Under the new laws, the European Union will have a single arrest warrant, meaning police in one country will be able to arrest and deport those wanted by another without going through complex extradition procedures.

"They will give Europe the means to effectively combat organized crime and terrorism," said Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres.

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