By Humphrey Carter BRITAIN has told Spain that it is willing to help cover the costs of hosting the forthcoming United Nations' Alliance of Civilisations summit here in Majorca.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced earlier this year that he intended to set up the new alliance based on an idea mooted by the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the high-level group tasked with promoting an Alliance of Civilisations between the West and the Islamic world will meet for the first time in November. Spain's Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos announced Britain's desire to co-operate yesterday on the first day of a series of bilateral meetings at the United Nations in New York.

It appears that during the three-day United Nations summit which drew to a close on Friday, Spain and Britain discussed the new Alliance and Moratinos also spoke about the role of the new group at one of the Clinton Global Initiative meetings which was also attended by the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Zapatero on Friday as well as the secretary general of the Arab League Amro Musa.

Britain first expressed an active interest in the Alliance back in July when Zapatero travelled to London to meet Tony Blair in the wake of the London terrorist attacks.

Blair expressed his “full support” for the Alliance.
Blair said the aim of the alliance was to have Western countries and Muslim countries form a “coalition of civilised people from whatever race or religion to combat the barbarity of terrorism”.

The South African archbishop Desmond Tutu and former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami have already been named members of the high-level UN group which will initially conists of 18 members brought together through extensive consultations with experts on dialogue between civilisations and culture.

On Friday, the UN said the group could be expanded later and confirmed its first meeting in late November.
Other members of the group include Spain's Federico Mayor Zaragoza - the former head of the UN's Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation - and the outgoing president of the Inter-American Development Agency, Uruguay's Enrique Iglesias. The former French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine and Karen Armstrong, a British expert on the history of religions, are also believed to be in the new alliance.

Whether Tony Blair or Jack Straw will attend remains to be seen but should Britain help cover the costs of the summit, a high level delegation from Britain is expected to come to Majorca.

Not since the European Union summit in Formentor ten years ago has the region held such a high-profile international political event and the island will be the centre of attention of the world's media throughout the summit.

Apart from the logistics involved with organising the United Nations summit, it will also involve a huge security operation especially as the Alliance will be dealing with the volatile topic of the Islamic world and improving relations between countries.