NEWS

EU, US urged to bond

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, ending a five-nation tour of Europe, yesterday urged the United States and the European Union to bury their disagreements over Iraq. «The different views of the past are a matter of the past. Now the international community needs to cooperate,» Koizumi said after meeting top EU officials in Athens. «This is not a matter of the United States versus France, but the international community versus Iraq,» he said. Koizumi, who attended an annual EU-Japan summit, had supported the US-led military action in Iraq but favors a strong United Nations role in the country’s reconstruction. During his eight-day European tour, he also visited Britain, Spain, France and Germany, on a trip focused on post-conflict Iraq and the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. He has said he hopes to travel to the United States later this month for talks with US President George W. Bush. Koizumi said he expects the EU to play a greater future role in crises like North Korea. «Next year, the European Union will accept 10 new members and so it will increase its weight in the world,» he said. «Coordination with the EU will become increasingly important.» He reaffirmed Japan’s support for a diplomatic solution in North Korea, but sharply criticized Pyongyang over the abductions of Japanese citizens in the 1970s to be trained as spies. «These were unforgivable and inhumane acts which North Korea continued to deny for more than 20 years,» he said. Greek Premier Costas Simitis hosted the EU-Japan talks and was joined by European Commission President Romano Prodi and external relations Commissioner Chris Patten. Greece holds the current EU presidency. «The situation in North Korea is not just a regional concern,» Simitis said. «When there are actions not in accordance with international law, then at any time there could again be conflict. We do not want conflict… The EU and Japan will work toward a diplomatic solution.» EU officials also said they welcomed Japan’s targets of doubling foreign investment over the next five years and to double the number of visitors to Japan by 2010. «It is important to take common action to open ourselves up to competition,» Prodi said.