Bush to seek EU support on Iraq

24th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

24 June 2004 , WASHINGTON - US President George W. Bush heads to Ireland this weekend to meet with EU leaders as he continues to seek more European support to secure Iraq and his agenda to bring sweeping changes to the Middle East. At the same time, the American president will be looking for common ground within the European Union and NATO alliance on how best to move forward amid increasing scepticism over the value of the trans-Atlantic alliance. Following the US-EU summit Saturday at Dromoland Castle in

24 June 2004

WASHINGTON - US President George W. Bush heads to Ireland this weekend to meet with EU leaders as he continues to seek more European support to secure Iraq and his agenda to bring sweeping changes to the Middle East.

At the same time, the American president will be looking for common ground within the European Union and NATO alliance on how best to move forward amid increasing scepticism over the value of the trans-Atlantic alliance.

Following the US-EU summit Saturday at Dromoland Castle in southern Ireland, Bush will fly to Istanbul for a NATO conference, where the United States is expected to make another push for expanding the alliance's role in Iraq.

US officials, expecting resistance among key NATO countries, namely France, to send troops to help stabilize Iraq, are instead aiming for the lesser goal of encouraging the alliance to help train and arm Iraqi security forces, and tout the role of 16 NATO countries already assisting on their own.

France and Germany have on several occasions insisted they will not sent troops to Iraq under any circumstances, even after they voted in favour of a US-backed Security Council resolution earlier this month endorsing a multinational force and the new Iraqi government set to take sovereignty over the country on 30 June.

French President Jacques Chirac, at a gathering of leading industrial democracies two weeks ago, said he would oppose a role for NATO in Iraq.

While the United States has been hard pressed to get NATO involved, questions have begun emerging over the vitality of an alliance divided over key strategic issues.

In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, foreign policy analysts Ivo Daalder and Robert Kagan said France and Germany are now obligated to support NATO's participation after the United States finally met their demands on the wording of the Security Council returning sovereignty to Iraq.

"With the two countries having gotten their way in the negotiations on the resolution, the time has come for them to pitch in and join in the effort to build a peaceful, stable, democratic future for Iraq," they said.

They also said concerns within the alliance that NATO is already stretched too thin because of the mission in Afghanistan don't fly.

"If NATO cannot take on a mission such as Iraq, when the United States is providing 90 percent of the forces, then why should Americans continue to value the organization?" the two analysts wrote.

Irish authorities are summoning thousands of police officers and soldiers to provide security during the meeting and fend off anti-Bush protestors in a country usually very warm to visits by American presidents.

The United States is likely to push for additional support for the Bush administration initiative aimed at persuading Arab governments to introduce democratic, economic and social reforms, while hoping the establishment of democracy in Iraq will further induce the autocratic region to embrace reforms.

During the G8 summit 8-10 June, the United States won support from key European partners like France and Germany on a watered down version of the initiative. European capitals have been sceptical of the chances for success, especially without progress on the Israeli- Palestinian front.

While Bush seeks more European support on Iraq, an issue that brought trans-Atlantic relations to one of their lowest points in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, another analyst believes European leaders are perhaps reluctant to support Bush ahead of November's presidential election.

"It's safe to say that European governments for the most part would prefer to see (Democratic challenger Senator) John Kerry win the next election," Charlie Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations recently said.

Those leaders would prefer to avoid a "train wreck" with Bush, but at the same time don't want to "give him things that would increase his chances for re-election, such as new troops in Iraq or a NATO decision to go to Iraq", he said.

DPA

Subject: German news

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