WASHINGTON, March 6 (UPI) -- Luxembourg, the smallest state in both the NATO alliance and the 15-nation European Union, strongly backed President Bush's war on terrorism and against Iraq Wednesday in sharp contrast to recent criticism from larger European states like France and Germany.
"In terms of President Bush's policy, I don't see how it can be criticized by European leaders," Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said after talks with Bush in the White House.
"It is clear to all who are not blind that Iraq is producing weapons of mass destruction and we do not have the right to close our eyes to that. We should develop common measures to tackle this," he added. "Iraq's refusal of the return of (United Nations) inspectors is unacceptable."
Juncker's firm support of the Bush line on Iraq is a further sign of a split among European ranks, with Britain, Spain and Italy disassociating themselves from the French and German criticisms of Bush's attack on the "axis of evil" if Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
Luxembourg's backing is more significant than it looks: The tiny country still carries the full voting rights of a nation state in NATO and the European Union.
Moreover, Juncker told reporters in Washington Wednesday that his support for Bush was not affected by his dismay at Bush's decision to impose 30-percent tariffs on imported steel, a decision that will hit European steel makers hard.
"I don't consider that we should mix the two issues. The fight against terrorism is one thing and the trade issue is another. I am not prepared to put them at the same level," Juncker said. "Even if public opinion wants to link them, I'm not prepared to do that. I will tell our public opinion there is no reason to mix the two."
Juncker said he found the Bush decision on steel "unacceptable and not in line with WTO (World Trade Organization) rules," and he backed the EU plan to challenge the new tariffs at the WTO. But as an issue, he stressed, it carrid a far smaller priority than the need for European solidarity with the American ally in the war on terrorism.
Juncker -- a center-right Christian Democrat politician who is more in tune with the Bush ideology than the social democrats who govern France and Germany -- presides over a tiny Grand Duchy of 600,000 people tucked between France, Germany and Belgium. Luxembourg, a founding member of both NATO and the EU, is also the world's 7th largest financial center, and one of the few countries to have instantly frozen all suspect bank accounts at American request after the terrorist attack of Sept. 11.