US Diplomat Calls Four European Allies "Chocolate Makers"

This is the kind of stuff we've come to expect from an administration that provokes instead of persuades, and resorts to name calling and threats when it doesn't get its way.

Belgium, France, Germany and Luxembourg proposed in April the establishment of a new European military command headquarters. Belgium has said that they will go ahead with plans to build the center near Brussels in 2004.

Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt told a meeting of Belgian ambassadors in Brussels on Tuesday that the new headquarters was necessary for Europe to be able to 'plan and execute European operations autonomously' - in other words, without interference from the US.

The European Union has long planned for a common European military capacity that would allow it to formulate and pursue a defence policy separate from that of the US-dominated Nato.

In unusually blunt language, US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher on Tuesday scoffed at the four European countries for continuing to support the proposal for the command centre.

He described the April meeting as one between 'four countries that got together and had a little bitty summit' and then referred to them collectively as 'the chocolate makers'.

After reflecting on his comments, Mr Boucher explained he had seen the phrase in press reports and said that he should not have repeated them.