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EU agrees to check Internet but differs over how

LISBON (Reuters) - European Union justice and interior ministers agreed on Monday they needed to do more to counter the use of the Internet by militants but could not agree on whether and how to block radical websites.

A picture showing a video grab from a militant group on an Islamic Web site used by militants, is pinned to a wall during a news conference in Vienna September 12, 2007. European Union justice and interior ministers agreed on Monday they needed to do more to counter the use of the Internet by militants but could not agree on whether and how to block radical websites. REUTERS/Matthias Cremer/Der Standard

European Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini presented to the ministers the outline of anti-terrorism proposals the EU’s executive will publish early November, including plans to block Web sites giving bomb instructions.

Portuguese Interior Minister Rui Pereira, who chaired the talks, said all countries agreed that radical militants should not be allowed to recruit followers via the World Wide Web.

“Apart from the fundamental agreement, we still have a lot to do, technical discussions, political discussions,” Pereira told reporters after the talks.

Internet experts doubt the technical feasibility of a European Commission plan to block some Web sites, which is also certain to arouse fierce debate on freedom of expression.

French Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie highlighted the sensitivity of such a move. “On legal grounds, I would personally be in favour, but not all countries have the same views,” she told reporters, adding that detailed technical discussions were needed.

Luxembourg’s Justice Minister Luc Frieden said he did not agree with blocking Web sites and argued that monitoring them would be more useful.

“It is much more important that we find out how terrorists communicate and monitor their communications,” he said.

Frattini said in an interview with Reuters last month that he also wanted Web searches for bomb recipes to be blocked.

This prompted strong reactions in the German media and on blogs, where some Internet users accused Frattini of wanting to censor the Web. The Commissioner backed off on Monday, saying he would propose deleting some Web sites, not censoring searches.

On another security issue, ministers welcomed the principle of setting up an EU-wide system to check private data of air passengers travelling to the 27-nation bloc, but did not discuss the plan in detail, diplomats said.

It will be part of the package of proposals to step up the EU fight against terrorism, due to be unveiled in early November.

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