Bush speech 'to be about D-Day, not Iraq'

4th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE, June 3 (AFP) - US President George W. Bush will focus on the soldiers of D-day, not the war in Iraq, when he delivers a speech marking the 60th anniversary of the landings, a top aide said Thursday.

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE, June 3 (AFP) - US President George W. Bush will focus on the soldiers of D-day, not the war in Iraq, when he delivers a speech marking the 60th anniversary of the landings, a top aide said Thursday.

The aide, who requested anonymity before briefing reporters as Bush flew to Italy, said the president will use his Sunday address to honor those who took part in the invasion that launched the Allied liberation of Europe.

Bush will pay tribute to "these small town kids and farm boys and city kids who came all the way across the ocean, participated in a military operation that by most calculations should have had no possibility of success, and ended up being the beginning of the saving of Europe," the aide said.

Prodded repeatedly on a possible rhetorical link to the war in Iraq, which sharply divided the United States and France, the aide said "the Normandy speech is much more about the people who were at Normandy."

Bush has forcefully linked the struggle to free Europe from the Nazis to the US-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, most recently in a speech on Wednesday to the US Air Force Academy.

The US leader was to meet in Rome with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and at the Vatican with Pope John Paul II before heading to Paris for a meeting with French President Jacques Chirac.

On Sunday, June 6, Bush will be among allied leaders who will make a speech commemorating the 1944 D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy.

After more than a year of angry rhetoric about France that included renaming "French toast" as "Freedom Toast" aboard his presidential plane, the Bush administration has softened its message.

"In terms of France, we've had our differences in the past," said the senior administration official, who did not expect France to commit troops to Iraq.

"I don't assume that the French want to make any further commitment at this time, but they are, I think, making a commitment to a democratic and stable Iraq," the official said.

While in Paris, Bush wants to tackle "a really pretty broad agenda with the French," that includes less thorny issues like the Middle East, efforts to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and Afghanistan, the aide said.

The official praised the French as "very strong partners in the war on terrorism," who have played a "very active role" in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, and have taken "a very strong role" in Lebanon.

Chirac and Bush "have very common interests, and the French have been probably one of our best supporters on proliferation issues," the official said. "The French have been very strong on North Korea, they have been active on Iran."

In an interview, Bush said he had "never been angry" with the French, that Chirac was his "friend" and that he would be happy to welcome the French leader to his Crawford, Texas, ranch - where he was once clearly unwelcome.

"If he wants to come to see some cows, he's welcome. He can come and see the cows," Bush told the magazine Paris Match.

But in April 2003, Bush had said of Chirac "I doubt he'll be coming to the ranch any time soon," and warned that some in the United States viewed Paris' opposition to the war as "anti-American."

© AFP

Subject: French news


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