Bush travels to Europe for D-Day campaign

2nd June 2004, Comments 0 comments

WASHINGTON, June 2 (AFP) - US President George W. Bush leaves Thursday on a European tour, where he will ply the emotional 60th anniversary of D-Day in a bid to win over critics of his handling of Iraq.

WASHINGTON, June 2 (AFP) - US President George W. Bush leaves Thursday on a European tour, where he will ply the emotional 60th anniversary of D-Day in a bid to win over critics of his handling of Iraq.

His trip comes at a critical time for the US-led occupation, as the United States and Britain seek to convince the UN Security Council to pass a new resolution on Iraq before handing power to a transitional Iraqi government at the end of June

During Bush's first stop in Rome, the president was to meet with one of his staunchest European allies in Iraq, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

He was also due to attend a ceremony marking Rome's liberation by American troops on June 4, 1944.

But he will also have to face protesters who oppose his decision to invade Iraq in March 2003, and who are also critics of Berlusconi's conservative government.

Bush, a Protestant, was also to visit the Vatican to meet with Pope John Paul II, a critic of the Iraq war who personally wrote the president urging against the invasion.

But a Vatican meeting makes for a welcome photo opportunity five months ahead of the November 2 presidential election in which his rival, Senator John Kerry, is Catholic.

On Saturday, Bush meets in Paris with the most vocal critic of the war, French President Jacques Chirac, amid more street demonstrations in a country where public opinion falls overwhelmingly against his administration.

The White House has tried to tone down the rhetoric, greatly softening from its tough talk before the invasion as it tries to win more European support, especially within the NATO alliance.

"I sense in all of the countries of the alliance, all the countries of the free world, a fundamental understanding that whatever differences we had in the past, that a free and prosperous and stable Iraq is a lynchpin and a key to a stable Middle East is understood," White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said Tuesday.

The softer tone comes as the United States is trying to convince the UN Security Council to adopt a new resolution on Iraq. France is one of five veto-wielding countries on the council.

"I wouldn't say that the rapprochement is real," said Samuel Wells, head of West European studies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington.

"Also I would hope that the decision makers in Paris realize that this is really approaching a critical moment, and once they work out something that is broadly acceptable I think they need to be as supportive as they can," he said.

"The temptation here won't necessarily be just to go it alone. It may also be increasingly to declare victory and go home and it would be a huge mistake.

A number of the Republican congressmen are starting to think in that direction, and that's a very disturbing thought."

Bush and Chirac travel Sunday to the beaches of Normandy, where they and 15 other leaders will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings that marked the beginning of the end of World War II.

The solemn ceremony gives Bush an opportunity to show American voters that he can be warmly received by world leaders, at a time when he faces criticism from his rival Kerry, who says the president has isolated the United States with his march to war.

Bush leaves France on Sunday, but then quickly heads on June 8 to the southern US state of Georgia to host the leaders of the world's wealthiest nations for the Group of Eight summit.

The Group of Eight is made up of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.


Subject: French news


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