Rumsfeld angers france germany
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French give Rumsfeld Cambronne treatment
By Toby Harnden in Washington and Philip Delves Broughton in Paris
One of the most ill-tempered transatlantic rows in years intensified yesterday when Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, dismissed the leaders of France and Germany as part of an "old Europe".
Paris and Washington traded insults, with one French minister saying he was "profoundly vexed" by America's attitude over European opposition to war with Iraq.
With calculated insouciance, Ari Fleischer, President George W Bush's spokesman, said France and Germany had the "prerogative, if they choose, to be on the sideline", making clear that US forces would go ahead in any event.
French politicians reacted with fury after Mr Rumsfeld, angered by anti-war comments from President Jacques Chirac and Germany's Gerhard Schroder, dismissed the two allies.
When asked about European opposition, Mr Rumsfeld said: "You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. That's old Europe.
"If you look at the entire Nato Europe today, the centre of gravity is shifting to the east. Germany has been a problem, and France has been a problem. But you look at vast numbers of other countries in Europe. They're not with France and Germany on this, they're with the United States."
Francis Mer, the French finance minister, said: "This mention of the old Europe is very irritating. I would like to remind everyone that this old Europe has spirit and is capable of bouncing back."
Roselyne Bachelot, the environment minister, said Mr Rumsfeld was talking "Cambronne's word". Cambronne was a French general who, when wounded at Waterloo, said simply "merde".
M Chirac called for the Iraq debate to be conducted "seriously and serenely" while Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister, said Mr Rumsfeld should "cool down" his rhetoric.
Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, was more emollient than Mr Rumsfeld when he appeared at a press conference with Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary.
"I don't think we will have to worry about going it alone," he said. "I am sure it will be a strong coalition. I think France and Germany do understand that the obligation is on Iraq; and if there is any confusion about that, I'm sure we will clear it up."