At their third and crucial attempt the European foreign ministers have managed to make their joint distaste for Libyan-sponsored terrorism more convincing than hitherto. They may still have some way to go before Washington regards their efforts as adequate, but the main event of the meeting has been its unanimity. . . .

Britain and Germany are not interested in economic sanctions, and not simply because they would not work. . . . They are not interested for the same reason that the United States is not seriously interested: sanctions against one country would point to sanctions against another at the other end of the continent. So, a great deal of pretence, not to say hypocrisy, continues to be built into the response to terrorism. We pretend that terrorists can be classified and defined like some biological species. In fact they are an entire order unto themselves with highly differentiated motives, origins and ways of operating. Europe knows a lot more about terrorism than does America, but for the sake of preventing more attacks on Tripoli it was common prudence for the Europeans to act in concert as they began to do yesterday. They may need to become more demonstrative still: but at least there is now a benchmark of common policy and common, pondered resolve. If Washington, pondering the aftermath of bombing itself and anxious not to precipitate a wider fracturing of the alliance, wishes to begin fresh explorations of partnership and concerted diplomatic action, then the opportunity is clear -- as is the alternative, which is to plough ahead with more military adventures, dealing ever more serious blows to the frayed ties of friendship.