Monday 17 March 2003

So Who Is To Blame?

by Jonathan Freedland

Serious summits, like the one yesterday in the Azores, don't allow much time off.

So George W Bush, Tony Blair and Jose Maria Aznar wouldn't have had a chance to go dolphin and whale watching or to check out the volcanoes which dot the chain of islands which lie, as if dropped from the sky, somewhere in the mid-Atlantic.

Hopefully, though, the three summiteers had an opportunity to take a good look at themselves, the world and the state of the western alliance which lies - thanks to this crisis - in its most desperate condition for half a century.

For that, the Azores was the perfect vantage point - half way between Europe and the United States, the two pillars of the post-war set-up which served the world so well for 60 years.

Two pillars which have spent the last few months being torn apart.

Looking out from the Azores, the trio would have seen partners who were once rock-solid now reduced to trading insults and putdowns.

Since last autumn, a German minister has compared George Bush to Adolf Hitler, prompting US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld to tell Germans they had "poisoned" the air between them.

Germany has since been joined by France, whose president has despatched envoys around the world and rallied his nation on TV in pursuit of a single goal: the thwarting of America.

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