EU vows to set up its own army

RETHYMNON (AFP) – The European Union vowed on Saturday to set up its own army next year, despite financial and political clouds, including a clear disagreement with the USA over threatened military action against Iraq. «We agreed on a clear political commitment to building the Rapid Reaction Force within the year 2003,» Greek Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said on Saturday at the end of two-day talks in Rethymnon, Crete, between EU defense ministers. «This goal will be met. This is our first priority, even though there was doubt at one stage whether we could achieve it.» The threatened war against Iraq, although not on the formal agenda of the meeting, overshadowed the talks from the start. «Our objective is not regime change,» EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana told reporters, demonstrating the clear trans-Atlantic gulf over the Iraqi question. «The inspectors have to go and to do their job.» On Saturday, three people were injured in clashes outside the meeting venue between some 300 anti-war protesters and riot police. No one was arrested.