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"The presidency has to maintain the cohesion between the 15 Member States", declared Olivier Alsteens, the Belgian Foreign Affairs minister's spokesman. A separate mini-summit held by Britain, France and Germany to discuss military action in Afghanistan and cooperation with the US, nevertheless threatened this cohesion."This was not a pre-summit," French officials said. "It was a trilateral meeting organised by the French President Chirac, so that the countries involved in the attacks on Afghanistan, or likely to be engaged in a particular situation, could co-ordinate their action.", French officials said, adding: "European cohesion could only be reinforced" through such close co-operation.This restricted summit, held ahead of a full EU heads of State summit could have been held "some other place, some other time", claimed some diplomatic sources. The Belgian presidency said it was "not abnormal to hold bilateral or trilateral meetings" between certain member States.British Prime Minister Tony Blair defended the meeting, list three points: "A. We came together to recognise and discuss particular points, i.e. military action. B. Such trilateral meetings have a precedent .C. The other Member States will have the full opportunity to present their views on the issue."Mr Blair stressed that "the European Union stands as one", and that the mini-summit was held to discuss a military intervention in Afghanistan, and "absolutely not because we don't trust the 12 other member States". But the rival meeting was criticised by the Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres as well as Spanish, Italian, Swedish and Dutch officials.Economic slowdown confirmed.The first part of the meeting focused on the Commission's economic forecasts. The early signs of recovery will not appear until the second half of 2002, and that is provided there is "no worsening of the political climate,", according to the Commission's report adopted on October 17. The document offers a general description of the EU's action after the events on September 11 and an assessment of their likely economic impact. Romano Prodi said on the eve of the Summit that his institution had to create the right "conditions so that monetary policy would be as flexible as possible." He ruled out any idea of bringing pressure to bear on the European Central Bank (ECB) but he did say these "conditions are currently being met.". The call to the ECB may be reproduced in...

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