Rice, Rumsfeld woo NATO EU ahead of Bush's visit

10th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

10 February 2005, BRUSSELS - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared transatlantic relations were back on track after almost two years of acrimony over the Iraq war.

10 February 2005

BRUSSELS - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared transatlantic relations were back on track after almost two years of acrimony over the Iraq war.

With her eight-day fence-mending sweep through Europe drawing to a close, Rice was in  Luxembourg on Thursday to meet with current European Union presidency. EU foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana is also expected to attend the meeting. 

"Times are different," Rice told reporters after talks with senior EU officials on Wednesday.

"We did have our differences," the US secretary of state said. But Americans and Europeans now had a "common agenda for Iraq," she insisted.

"We have a history of shared values," she said. The message is expected to be repeated by US President George W. Bush when he visits NATO and EU headquarters on 22 February.

Bush is to meet German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder the next day in Mainz. 

Later in Nice, US Defence Minister Donald Rumfeld expressed understanding for Europe's doubts over the Iraq war. At a dinner with NATO counterparts, Rumsfeld renounced the "old Europe" description he used two years ago to label European countries that didn't join the US-led coalition that invaded Iraq, according to EU diplomats.

Now there are numerous opportunities for the United States and Europe to act together in Afghanistan and in Iraq, Rumsfeld said.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters in Brussels the U.S. and the E.U. could not tackle complex global issues on their own.

"There is a perception we should work together," he said.

Rice, who also met with NATO foreign ministers before talks with Barroso, said she had won support from European governments on measures to stabilise Iraq.

All 26 NATO governments were ready to contribute to an expanded security forces training operation in the country, she said.

While some countries were ready to send troops to Iraq to bolster the current NATO mission in the country, others would train Iraqi security personnel outside Iraq.

Financial contributions for the operation were also being envisaged, she said.

"This is the best discussion of Iraq we have had as an Alliance since the downfall of Saddam Hussein," Rice said.

The courage shown by Iraqis in last month's elections had impressed all NATO governments and prompted a "coming together" on the issue.

Elections in Iraq had given all allies a "new unity of purpose" to support the people of the country, she said.

Rice also struck a surprisingly conciliatory note on Iran, saying Europeans were working to ensure that Teheran lived up to its international commitments to suspend uranium enrichment activities.

But she warned that Iran could be referred to the United Nations Security Council if it failed to follow international rules.

"Iran should live up to the opportunity that Europe is giving them to live up to its international obligations," she told reporters.

She said Washington was not setting any deadlines but insisted: "Iranians know what they have to do."

Asked about the possibility of U.S. military strikes against Iran's suspected nuclear sites, Rice said President George W. Bush had not ruled out any options.

But she insisted: "We do have diplomats means ... a diplomatic solution is in our grasp if we have unity of message."

Rice cautioned the European Union against lifting a 15-year old arms embargo against China, saying such a move could destablise the military balance in Asia.

But she said Brussels and Washington were working to try and overcome their differences over the issue. "I feel we are being listened to," she said.

Alliance Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer echoed Rice's comments on NATO support for Iraq, saying collective backing for the country would be announced by the Alliance at a summit to be attended by President Bush on 22 February in Brussels.

"We are making good progress ... I am happy to report the beginning of positive news," he said.

France, Germany and other nations that opposed the US-led war in Iraq remain reluctant to send instructors to the country. Germany is, however, training Iraqi police and security officials in Abu Dhabi.

Rice also vowed to cooperate with Europe on encouraging Middle East peace efforts.

"We are going to be strong partners in the Middle East," the US secretary of state said, adding that both sides shared a common vision of seeing two states, Israel and Palestine, living together in peace. 


Subject: German news 

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