- The Washington Times - Friday, July 26, 2002

BRUSSELS British Prime Minister Tony Blair has vigorously defended his country's special relationship with the United States and urged his European allies to stop whining about the dominance of the world's only superpower.

In an interview for the August edition of Prospect magazine, Mr. Blair described the United States as a "force for good in the world," gave tacit support to President Bush's saber-rattling against Iraq and defended U.S. fears about the International Criminal Court (ICC) as "perfectly valid."

Rejecting contentions that the Republican administration sees itself as immune from international law, Mr. Blair said: "Because of America's genuinely special position, people tend to exaggerate the extent to which the United States is saying, 'We don't care what the rest of the world thinks.'"

The British leader conceded that "there is always a certain scratchiness in the Europe-America relationship" but denied that recent spats over climate change, the Middle East and the ICC have soured relations between the world's two biggest economic powers.

"People on the right want to set Anglo-Saxon and European culture apart, some people on the left want to rip up the relationship because they are anti-American," Mr. Blair said. "Both are wrong. When Europe and America stand together, the world is safer and more stable. When they come apart, the world becomes quite a dangerous place."

Mr. Blair, 49, also criticized the belief of European Commission President Romano Prodi that Britain must decide whether its destiny lies with the United States or Europe. "It's nonsense that we have to make a choice," he said. "Making a choice rather than keeping a strong role on both sides of the Atlantic would diminish our power."

Mr. Blair, whose Labor government has been in office for more than five years, said the European Union could become a superpower but only if it stops grousing about Washington and learns to better project its power.

"My challenge to Europe is this: If we want to have greater sway and greater power, then instead of complaining about America, we've got to face up to what we need to do," he said. "That means developing a coherent defense capability and a set of institutions to allow Europe to speak strongly."

Lawmakers from the European Union's member nations, government representatives and members of the European Parliament are looking at such issues in the Convention on the Future of Europe, a body set up to look at ways to reform the bloc ahead of enlargement.

Turning to the confusion about who represents the European Union on the world stage, Mr. Blair said: "The rest of the world needs to know who speaks for Europe. If you want to be taken seriously, you have got to act seriously."

His suggested solution is to scrap the EU system of rotating six-month presidencies and create a position that would lead the 15-member bloc for five years. Mr. Blair, along with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, is already seen as a likely choice for such a post.

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