- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 7, 2001

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and Secretary of State Colin Powell stood shoulder to shoulder yesterday in support of the proposed European defense plan and sanctions on Libya, while they downplayed differences over missile defense.

Mr. Cook discussed with Mr. Powell at the State Department the European plan to set up a 60,000-man rapid-reaction force independent of NATO a plan that was criticized last week by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld as potentially weakening NATO.

"We both agreed that an increase in Europe's rapid reaction capability could strengthen NATO, and we are both determined that this new European capacity should be firmly anchored in NATO," said Mr. Cook in a joint press conference with Mr. Powell.

Mr. Powell said the Bush administration has "a very good understanding of what the European Security and Defense Initiative is all about an effort on the part of our European friends to increase their capability for rapid reaction in Europe and wherever else the need might arise and we support that goal."

Mr. Powell said the new force would allow Europe to act when NATO or the United States decided not to engage.

On the Bush administration plan to develop and deploy an anti-ballistic missile system, Mr. Cook voiced some concerns.

Mr. Cook said yesterday the best way to defend against attacks by rogue states such as North Korea, Iraq and Iran the main aim of the national missile defense might be to stop the spread of missile technologies.

"We both share a deep concern for the proliferation of missile technology," said Mr. Cook.

He said he "welcomed the commitment of the U.S. to consult with its allies and with Russia" and would work with the United States to tighten "the international regime against missile technology proliferation and to develop a coordinated counterproliferation strategy."

Several European allies as well as Russia and China have said the national missile defense would upset arms-control agreements and spark a new arms race.

[In Moscow yesterday, Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev dismissed a proposed U.S. national missile defense as ineffective, saying it could easily be defeated by the old Soviet technologies developed in the 1980s to oppose President Reagan's proposed missile defense.

["We had three mighty programs to asymmetrically counteract U.S. national missile defenses during Reagan's 'star wars,' " Mr. Sergeyev was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. He did not offer details.]

The United States says the new system designed to protect against small numbers of missiles launched by terrorists or rogue nations should be of no concern to Russia, which has more than enough missiles to overwhelm it.

Mr. Cook said that despite Britain's decision last year to restore diplomatic relations with Libya, he backed the U.S. demand for continued sanctions following last week's conviction for the bombing of a Pan Am aircraft over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.

Mr. Powell also touched on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying that the new administration is prepared to help the new Israeli government and Palestinians reach peace after they have reached the decisions needed for a settlement.

"We have a role to play. We have to see what the Israeli people say through this election process. We are not going to be standoffish but, at the same time, we want to make sure that the search for peace the quest for peace is seen in a broad regional context so that the quest doesn't stand alone in and of itself."

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