Iraq's interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, secured cash and pledges of help from European Union leaders on Friday despite having described countries that opposed the U.S.-led war to oust Saddam Hussein as "spectators."
The E.U. pledged new funds to support elections planned for the end of January. But Allawi's visit to Brussels was clouded by anger at his remark and by French President Jacques Chirac's early departure from the summit in what some diplomats said was a snub to Allawi.
"I never said Europe was a spectator," Allawi said at a news conference, referring to remarks made in Rome on Thursday alongside Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, a strong supporter of the war. "Europe stood with us, and Europe is standing with us now. . . . There is a difference of views among European countries, but we want to create a constructive dialogue to create stability and peace in the region."
In Italy, Allawi had asked for help from "the countries which up to now have been spectators." Several leaders said his comment was unhelpful at a time when the E.U., deeply divided over the invasion and occupation of Iraq, is looking for a fresh start with the Bush administration and becoming more involved in rebuilding the country.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany called Allawi's comment "a slip of the tongue" and said he would remind him that Germany was training Iraqi police and soldiers in the United Arab Emirates and had offered to write off a substantial amount of Iraqi debt.
Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker of Luxembourg, which opposed the war along with France and Germany, told reporters: "I don't like the expression 'spectator states' at all."
The new E.U. aid package is relatively small, with $21 million for the elections and a U.N. force to protect the vote, and support for developing the Iraqi justice system.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the leaders of four European nations, which along with Britain had committed troops to Iraq, told Allawi they were determined to stay the course. "All were very firm about their commitment to keeping their troops there for as long as it took," Allawi said.
Prime Minister Marek Belka of Poland, whose country has 2,500 troops in Iraq, said any withdrawal would be "catastrophic."
"Even talking about possible pullout is harmful for Iraq . . . as it encourages terrorists," he said.
Hungary and the Netherlands are planning to keep troops in Iraq until March.
Chirac, the most outspoken opponent of the Iraq invasion, skipped the meeting with Allawi to fly to the United Arab Emirates but said it was not a snub. "There is no problem naturally with the Iraqi authorities," Chirac said at a news conference, adding that he had invited Iraq's president, Ghazi Yawar, to Paris and that he had accepted.
But diplomats called Chirac's early exit a clear snub and said that France had managed to get a phrase explicitly welcoming Allawi deleted from the summit's draft statement.
Allawi also made his first visit to NATO headquarters, to ask for more help from the 26-member alliance. France and Germany have insisted NATO should have no combat role in Iraq but have agreed it could send a small training mission.