Bush overture focuses onMiddle East and strong EU
21 February 2005, BRUSSELS - US President George W. Bush on Monday sidestepped past transatlantic differences over the Iraq war, insisting instead on his support for a "strong" Europe and future joint actions to ensure Middle East peace. "No temporary debate, no passing disagreement of governments, no power on earth will ever divide us," Bush said in a keynote speech kicking off a four-day European tour. The US leader is meeting NATO and European Union (EU) leaders including his most vocal Iraq war critics
21 February 2005
BRUSSELS - US President George W. Bush on Monday sidestepped past transatlantic differences over the Iraq war, insisting instead on his support for a "strong" Europe and future joint actions to ensure Middle East peace.
"No temporary debate, no passing disagreement of governments, no power on earth will ever divide us," Bush said in a keynote speech kicking off a four-day European tour.
The US leader is meeting NATO and European Union (EU) leaders including his most vocal Iraq war critics: French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt - a staunch Iraq war critic - was at pains to bury discord in remarks introducing the US leader.
Transatlantic ties "will sometimes strain but never burst ... the strength of our convictions will win the day," said Verhofstadt.
Equally keen to draw a line under past disputes, Bush presented detailed plans aimed at securing Middle East peace in apparent reply to long-standing EU demands for a more active US role in the region.
Clearly seeking more assistance in Iraq, Bush repeatedly said America and Europe had to work together to stabilise the country. He also hailed European contributions to Afghanistan.
"America supports a strong Europe ... because we need a strong partner," Bush said.
The President stressed an emerging joint French-US position on securing a withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.
"Syria must end its occupation of Lebanon," Bush insisted, adding: "Without Syrian interference, Lebanese parliamentary elections in the Spring can be a milestone to democracy."
Damascus must also end support for violence and terrorist groups in Iraq, said Bush. Syria is expected to top the agenda when Bush has a working dinner with France's Chirac later Monday. France, the former colonial power in Syria and Lebanon, still has considerable influence in the region.
Turning to Iran, the US President stood by his long-standing demand that Teheran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons.
But seeking to avoid any sabre-rattling, Bush said he was "working closely" with Britain, France and Germany - the so-called EU 3 - which are seeking a diplomatic deal offering Teheran trade and aid in exchange for giving up its alleged bid to build a nuclear bomb.
As expected, however, Bush did not announce any plans for the US formally to join the European diplomatic bid as many in Europe have been demanding.
"The results of this now depend largely on Iran," he said, adding: "For the sake of peace the Iranian regime must end its support of terrorism and must not develop nuclear weapons."
Earlier this year Bush refused to rule out using military force against Iran over its nuclear programme. This caused consternation in Europe.
In comments which will be widely welcomed in Europe, Bush sent a strong message of support for a viable Palestinian state.
Directing unusually firm remarks at Israel, the US leader warned that a patchwork of territories could produce a failed Palestinian state and told Israel to freeze Jewish settlements.
"A state of scattered territories will not work," said Bush to applause, adding that a future Palestinian state must be "contiguous."
Turning to the Palestinian Authority, Bush called on President Mahmoud Abbas to confront and dismantle terrorist groups.
Bush said Abbas now had the opportunity to put forward a strategy for reform. "I hope he will seize the moment."
The US leader also urged Arab governments to end "extremist education" and embrace political reform.
"We must expect high standard from our friends in the Middle East," said Bush.
Naming names, Bush specifically called on close US allies Saudi Arabia and Egypt to do more to encourage democracy.
Bush once again rejected EU calls for Washington to join the Kyoto Protocol on combating climate change but said there other options to achieve the same goal.
The US leader steered clear of mentioning Washington's opposition to EU plans to lift an arms embargo imposed on China in 1989 after Beijing's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.
Subject: German news