Bush Europe visit to 'mend' fences with France

9th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Dec 9 (AFP) - US President George W. Bush hopes to use his February trip to Europe to mend relations strained over the Iraq war, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday.

PARIS, Dec 9 (AFP) - US President George W. Bush hopes to use his February trip to Europe to mend relations strained over the Iraq war, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday.

Confirming Bush would travel to Europe around February 22, he told France 3 television the president "hopes to mend these breaches that have opened in our relationship with France and some other countries, frankly, and that is why he is planning to come to Europe early in his next term."

He added: "We recognise France as a partner, an ally and as an important trading partner of the United States.... We have shared values, yes, we have a common destiny to move into the future, and that will always bring us back together."

France was one of the fiercest opponents of last year's US-led invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein, and Germany was also strongly opposed.

Powell asserted that Washington-Paris relations had not been as bad as portrayed, but admitted "there was a major disagreement over Iraq and nobody can paper that over," according to an English transcription of the interview supplied by the station.

The secretary, who has announced his resignation from Bush's administration, reaffirmed Washington's commitment to break the insurgency in Iraq and hold elections there as planned on January 30, saying the rebels were terrorists who wanted a return to the days of Saddam.

He said the Iraqi people wanted to be able to choose their own leader, just like the people of Afghanistan, Georgia and Ukraine.

Powell, speaking from Brussels where he was attending a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, said Bush and his aides would attend NATO meetings and see EU officials on February 22.

"And I hope that as part of those meetings, they will have an opportunity to discuss issues, not only with President (Jacques) Chirac, but with the other NATO heads of government," he said.

"I hope that in 2005, any breaches that remain between Europe and the United States are closed," he said.

Powell added that a renewed partnership was needed so "we can work together to help the broader Middle East nations and north African nations reform and modernize themselves with our help."

NATO officials, who saw the organisation plunged its deepest-ever crisis by the divisions over Iraq, welcomed the announcement of Bush's February 22 visit as a chance to rebuild bridges.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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