Ah the French
From the BBC:
French President Jacques Chirac was facing a backlash from eastern and central European countries on Tuesday after attacking them for their pro-US stance.
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair backed the small nations, declaring that all countries should be free to speak their minds.
Mr Chirac, speaking in Brussels as he attended an EU emergency summit on Monday, accused the candidates of acting out of turn by siding with the US.
France has a right to define its own policy, and we have to respect it. Poland... also has a right to decide what is in its own good
I'm surprised this isn't getting more air play in the states. This could really help the admins case that the French are just trying to hurt America and don't speak for all of Europe.
Polish Deputy FM
He said they should have kept quiet.
But on Tuesday Poland - the biggest of the candidate countries - launched its own rebuke.
"France has a right to define its own policy, and we have to respect it," said Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld.
"Poland... also has a right to decide what is in its own good, and France should in its turn consider it with respect and with interest for the reasons for this difference (of opinion)."
This approach will not help to create unity in the Security Council
Bulgarian Deputy FM
Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Alexandr Vondr, when asked whether Mr Chirac was bullying the candidates, said: "That's the way it seems."
Mr Chirac's attack "displayed some nervousness", said Bulgarian Deputy Foreign Minister Lubomir Ivanov.
"This approach will not help to create unity in the Security Council," Mr Ivanov told Bulgarian national radio.
Our country and other countries have a right to express our opinions.
Estonian FM spokeswoman
Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said there was no question of Bulgaria changing its stance, although he said that Mr Chirac's comments should not be exaggerated.
In Estonia, foreign ministry spokeswoman Tiina Maiberg told BBC News Online: "All we would say is that the more plurality of opinion in Europe, the better it is. Our country and other countries have a right to express our opinions.
"The more expressions of view the better."
The candidate countries were being briefed in Brussels on Tuesday on the outcome of the EU emergency summit.
Mr Blair, who initiated one of the letters, also insisted that the candidate countries should not be silenced.
"They have as much right to speak up as Great Britain or France or any other member of the European Union today," Mr Blair said.
The divisions in Europe have split the EU's existing members into two camps.
Public opinion across Europe is against early war
But among candidate countries' governments, there is widerspread support for the US.
France, Germany and Greece, spearheading European resistance to an early war, were angered first by an open letter signed by eight EU and candidate countries in January.
It was followed by another letter, signed by 10 central and eastern European states, also expressing backing for the US handling of the crisis.
Mr Chirac's unprecedented attack came at a news conference after Monday's EU summit.
He said the joint statements were "childish and irresponsible".
LATEST LETTER SUPPORTING US
*EU candidate country
The countries, he said, had "missed a great opportunity to be quiet", and should have.
They should have consulted the EU before issuing statements in support of the United States.
Mr Chirac was particularly critical of the poorest applicants, Romania and Bulgaria, which will have to wait until 2007.
Their position is already very delicate, he said, and if they wanted to diminish their chances of joining the EU they could not have chosen a better way.
The anger of the candidate countries was echoed by leading members of the European Parliament.
Pitting east against west, and EU against US was a dangerous course, said Hans-Georg Poettering, who leads the largest grouping in the parliament, the centre-right European People's Party.
"Were we to define our relationship in such a way that European integration is seen as something running counter to our relations with the United States, then we would be jeopardising the future of the European Union," he said.
"We would be forcing the candidate countries to side always with the United States. Because of their historical experiences, they always feel that they can get more support and succour from the American side in an emergency," Poettering added.
JANUARY'S OPEN LETTER OF SUPPORT
*EU candidate country
Liberal Democrat leader Graham Watson called it "gratuitous and condescending".
Spain, meanwhile, was wrestling with its own Iraq problems.
Prime Minister Jose Maria, a strong US supporter, was expected to face strong pressure from opposition parties during a parliamentary debate on Tuesday.
More than two million Spaniards joined an anti-war march at the weekend - proportionately one of the highest turnouts in the world.
ON THIS STORY
Chris Patten, EU commissioner for external relations
"It is going to be difficult to get people together on every issue"
The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"This row is about power and influence"
US clerics oppose war
Saudi war warning
Iraq polio campaign
'New Europe' hits back
Blair's political troubles
US and UK regroup
Blix tiptoes tightrope
Global voices on Iraq
BBC WORLD SERVICE
News in Arabic
Inspectors' report: Point by point
Your views on inspectors' report
Can rift over Iraq be healed?
18 Feb 03 | Europe
Split EU leaders find Iraq compromise
18 Feb 03 | Europe
Chirac blasts EU candidates
18 Feb 03 | Europe
Full text: EU Iraq declaration
12 Feb 03 | Europe
Europe's new gang resists US 'bullying'
11 Feb 03 | Europe
Polls find Europeans oppose Iraq war
17 Feb 03 | Europe
Millions join global anti-war protests
16 Feb 03 | Americas
Analysis: Vive la UN difference
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites
Top Europe stories now:
Turkey ups stakes on US troops
'New Europe' hits back at Chirac
Ferguson plays down Beckham row
Blair keeps euro options open
Waiter jailed for underage sex
Democratic test for Armenia
Alinghi take Cup stranglehold
New Cypriot leader 'eager' for talks
Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.