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Global war rift would be a disaster: Blair

London, April 28 (Reuters): British Prime Minister Tony Blair cautioned today against allowing the global rift over the Iraq war to develop into a return to Cold War era divisions, saying that would be a “disaster” for the world.

Blair, who failed to bridge a transatlantic split in the run-up to the US-led war, said a rivalry between Europe and Washington would create a difficult situation and he urged Europe to debate its relationship with the US.

“My fear is if we don’t deal with the world on the basis of a partnership between Europe and America, then we will in a sense put back into the world the divisions that we wanted to get rid of when the Cold War finished,” he said.

“I think that would be just a disaster for the world.”

The Iraq war split Europe down the middle and made a mockery of Europe’s plans for a common foreign and defence policy. Blair said the war had driven home the dangers of a Europe that aspired to rival America.

“If you end up with two rival centres of power, you find a very, very difficult situation,” he said.

“You have had a very difficult situation in the past few months. The industrialised modern developed world appeared to split into two parts and I think that is dangerous and that’s why I think we need to go back into this in a considered way and have an honest discussion on this,” Blair added.

Britain and France, which led the anti-war camp, have exchanged a flurry of insults in past months as Blair accused Paris of blocking diplomatic efforts to win a UN consensus on the war.

Blair said France remained “an important ally” and that Britain and France should work together. “But I think it’s important that we come to a proper understanding within Europe of what our relationship with America is,” he added, saying that other nations like Germany, also opposed to the war, should join the debate.

Blair said he believed it “perfectly possible” for Europe to become more powerful but remain an ally of Washington.

“It is a fundamental decision as to whether the world breaks into different centres of power — that I think very quickly will become rival centres of power — or whether we see our task as trying to construct a genuine strategic partnership with America for the future,” he said.

World trade negotiations over the next six months was one issue where Europe and America should work together, Blair said.

Earlier, in an interview with the Financial Times newspaper, Blair said the best way to stop Washington acting unilaterally was to join forces with it rather than opposing it. The paper described his words as a warning to France.

At his news conference, Blair stressed the common ground between France and Britain — from geography to being probably the two leading defence nations in Europe.

He denied that Britain had been snubbed by not being invited to a mini defence summit between Germany, France, Belgium and Luxembourg on Tuesday and he said Britain would not agree to any radical changes in European defence plans.

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