The EU answered an appeal by Iraq's interim leader on Friday by pledging new funds to support Iraqi elections. Iyad Allawi had asked the the EU to "open a new chapter" and overcome divisions caused by the Iraq war.
Iyad Allawi's presence in Brussels wasn't without controversy
Despite having irked several EU leaders by describing states that opposed the US-led war in Iraq as "spectators," Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi successfully appealed for greater unity on Iraq.
In a day of talks aimed at drumming up financial and other support from NATO and the European Union, Allawi stressed that time is of the essence.
"There is a real battle in Iraq today," he said. "Delays measured even in hours and days can cost lives."
The new EU aid package consists of an extra €16.5 million ($21 million) cash for elections due in January, support for developing Iraq's justice system, and help for a United Nations protection force to oversee the elections.
Both NATO and the EU were plunged into crisis by last year's Iraq conflict, in both cases pitting an anti-war grouping spearheaded by France and Germany against pro-war countries.
And despite agreements on the need to help rebuild the conflict-scarred country, tensions have lingered, with the anti-war camp refusing to send any military forces to Iraq.
"Slip of the tongue"
The tensions resurfaced in Brussels after Allawi urged "spectator" states to engage in Iraq, notably angering France, whose president, Jacques Chirac, left early and missed an EU lunch with Allawi -- even if aides said it was not a snub.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder called Allawi's comment "a slip of the tongue" and said he would remind him that Germany is training Iraqi police and military in the United Arab Emirates and had offered to write off a substantial amount of Iraqi debt.
Allawi also complained about plans by European countries such as Hungary and the Netherlands to withdraw their troops from the US-led coalition in Iraq. He said "we all need to close ranks and defeat terrorism" and urged EU countries to keep troops in Iraq.
EU congratulates Bush
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Tony Blair urged European leaders to accept US President George W. Bush's re-election, commenting that some EU leaders were in a "state of denial."
In a draft joint statement, EU leaders congratulated President Bush, and said they look forward to working closely with him and his administration to "combine efforts, including in multilateral institutions, to promote the rule of law and create a just, democratic and secure world."
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and President Bush have put their differences aside
Chancellor Schröder told a news conference in Brussels that he personally telephoned Bush on Friday to congratulate him.
The two leaders went for months without speaking after Schröder based his re-election campaign on opposition to the war in Iraq. They drew a line under their dispute at a UN General Assembly meeting last year.