Rice to set out ambitiousagenda in Europe, M-East

3rd February 2005, Comments 0 comments

3 February 2005, WASHINGTON - The new US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, departs for Europe and the Middle East this week on an ambitious agenda to outline US foreign policy for the next four years and find ways to strengthen trans-Atlantic ties. In Europe, where relations with countries like Germany and France soured over the Iraq war, Rice will work to produce a common agenda for the war on terrorism, Middle East peace and other international issues like combating disease and poverty. Her trip was

3 February 2005

WASHINGTON - The new US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, departs for Europe and the Middle East this week on an ambitious agenda to outline US foreign policy for the next four years and find ways to strengthen trans-Atlantic ties.

In Europe, where relations with countries like Germany and France soured over the Iraq war, Rice will work to produce a common agenda for the war on terrorism, Middle East peace and other international issues like combating disease and poverty.

Her trip was largely seen a gesture by US President George W. Bush's administration to show its commitment to its European partners, and during the spring, Rice plans on visiting the capital cities of the 25 nations in the NATO alliance.

Despite some scepticism about American intentions, there have been some recent signs that the two sides are eager to put differences aside and work together. The Bush administration has renewed its willingness to work with allies, and the European Union has pledged more money for Iraq's reconstruction.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac praised Sunday's elections in Iraq as successful and a key step forward there.

Rice will also travel to Israel and the West Bank optimistic of a new chance for the peace process after key steps taken by the Israeli and Palestinian governments.

During his State of the Union address Wednesday, Bush cited progress by the Palestinian government in introducing democratic reforms and moves to beef up security forces to prevent attacks against Israelis. The Palestinians recently conducted municipal elections in the Gaza Strip.

"The beginnings of reform and democracy in the Palestinian territories are now showing the power of freedom to break old patterns of violence and failure," Bush said on the eve of Rice's departure.

"The goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace is within reach, and America will help them achieve that goal," he said.

Rice was due to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday.

Rice departs Washington on Thursday, first stopping in London before heading to Berlin, Warsaw and Ankara. The seven-day journey will then take her to the Middle East before she returns to Europe with stops in Rome, Paris, Brussels and Luxembourg.

Her trip is to lay the ground for a visit by Bush later this month, Bush's first trip overseas since he was sworn for a second, four-year term in January 20.

While the trip has been billed as an effort to reach out to allies, there are still some thorny issues between the United States and the European Union. It remains to be seen whether European countries that opposed the Iraq war will offer more support there now that elections have taken place.

There are also divisions on how to curb global warming, and more recently, the United States objected to an E.U. decision to lift a 15-year-old arms embargo on China. The United States also expressed reservations over E.U. foreign ministers electing to restore high- level diplomatic contacts with Cuba.

"Our experience in terms of watching what's happened with Cuba and the Castro regime is that a productive dialogue with the Castro regime is simply not possible," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Tuesday. "Past efforts by the Europeans and others have yielded neither political nor economic reforms."

The European Union cut those ties after Fidel Castro's regime arrested 75 dissidents.

When Rice arrives in Paris, she plans on giving a major address to outline Bush's foreign policy, a key aspect of which is promoting democracy and freedom throughout the world but especially in the Middle East.

Europe's leaders remain somewhat sceptical of the prospects for the success of Bush's broad agenda, and the European public is concerned about a perceived willingness in Washington to rely on the military rather than democracy.

During his speech Wednesday, Bush sought to allay such concerns, saying the United States does not intend to impose its own style of government on other countries.

"Our aim is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations with governments that answer to their citizens and reflect their own cultures," he said.

DPA

Subject: German news

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