Bush hails Germany as 'heart of Europe'
23 February 2005, BERLIN - US President George W. Bush on Wednesday hailed Germany as ""the heart of Europe" and vowed cooperation with European diplomatic moves to ensure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons. Bush met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Mainz on the third day of what is being dubbed as his European "charm offensive" aimed at healing bitter Iraq war differences and winning support for Middle East peace and reform initiatives. The US President went out of his way to show understand
23 February 2005
BERLIN - US President George W. Bush on Wednesday hailed Germany as ""the heart of Europe" and vowed cooperation with European diplomatic moves to ensure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons.
Bush met with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Mainz on the third day of what is being dubbed as his European "charm offensive" aimed at healing bitter Iraq war differences and winning support for Middle East peace and reform initiatives.
The US President went out of his way to show understanding for Schroeder's refusal to send troops or even military instructors to Iraq - moves which helped fuel the worst crisis between both nations since 1945.
Germany fiercely opposed the Iraq war and Schroeder - much to Bush's anger - used the issue to secure a narrow re-election victory in 2002.
"I fully understand the limitations of German contributions," said Bush who went on to praise German training for Iraqi police in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and intelligence sharing in the bid to hunt down terrorists.
Bush declared: "Past disagreements are behind us."
Schroeder was equally keen to make the Iraq row history.
"We cannot deny that in the past there were different views," said Schroeder, adding: "But this is past ... We have a common interest that there should be a stable, democratic Iraq."
"We can't have good strong relations (with Europe) if we don't have good relations with Germany," said Bush, adding: "It's the heart of Europe."
Calling each other by their first-names, praising each other's wives, Laura Bush and Doris Schroeder-Kopf, and even occasionally draping a hand over the other's shoulder, the two put on a demonstrative show of harmony.
In a move welcomed by Berlin, Bush gave clear signal that he would wait and see if a European diplomatic bid to halt Iran's suspected nuclear weapons programme succeeds.
Bush has declined to join the Franco-German-British initiative, but he confirmed Washington was coordinating diplomatic moves with Europe aimed at convincing Iran not to develop nuclear weapons in exchange for trade and aid.
"It's vital that the Iranians hear the world speak with one voice," said Bush at a joint news briefing with Schroeder.
"What we have discussed with our German friends and our French and British friends as well is a series of negotiating tactics," said Bush who had separate meetings with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac in Brussels earlier this week.
Bush thanked the so-called "European 3" for, as he put it, "taking the lead" on Iran and pledged the US would continue to work with them.
"I said all options are on the table ... but diplomacy is just beginning. Iran is not Iraq," said Bush.
Earlier this year Bush caused alarm among many Europeans by saying he did not rule out military strikes against Iran over its suspected nuclear programme.
Bush was also at pains to smooth over comments made earlier this month by Schroeder that NATO was no longer the main avenue for transatlantic talks.
"I interpreted the comments to mean he wants NATO to be relevant when there is meaningful strategic dialogue," said Bush. "So I appreciate the spirit in which the comments were made."
Schroeder had called for a bigger EU role in transatlantic ties - a move opposed by Bush who says NATO must remain the main link.
Both Bush and Schroeder side-stepped a series of issues dividing Europe and the United States including E.U. plans to lift an arms embargo on China.
The chemistry between both leaders - awkward in the past - seemed better even though Bush's easy banter and back-slapping style still appeared foreign to Schroeder.
The chancellor, who is just getting over a bad flu, stared ahead grimly during a welcoming session with military honours for Bush. In contrast, the US leader was upbeat and smiling and even nodded his head in tune with the German national anthem played by an armed forces band.
After visiting US soldiers stationed in Germany later Wednesday, Bush is due to fly on to Bratislava where he will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.
Subject: German news