EU and US remain divided as Bush leaves Brussels
23 February 2005
BRUSSELS – George W Bush has left Brussels with talk of a new “transatlantic era” overshadowed by divisions over China, Iran and NATO.
The Bush entourage has headed to Germany after two days of intense talks with EU, NATO and Belgian leaders.
The American President’s visit was hailed as widely successful in burying past transatlantic rifts over the Iraq war.
But the limits of the new transatlantic friendship were exposed through clashes with the French over the lifting of the China arms embargo.
Shortly after Bush expressed “deep concern” about the lifting of the arms ban, French President Jacques Chirac told reporters the embargo was “no longer justified” and an obstacle to relations with China.
Divisions also remain over Iran, where the US has implicitly supported EU efforts to find a diplomatic solution to Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, but will not go to the negotiation table itself.
Bush gave conflicting messages on Washington’s policy over Iran in an effort to allay international fears that a military strike was imminent.
“This notion that the US is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous,” he said, but quickly added, “having said that, all options are on the table.”
While EU leaders tried to play down divisions with America, thousands of protesters outside the EU institutions were more vociferous.
Police fired water cannons and tear gas at the demonstration on Rue de la Loi after a petrol bomb injured a police officer in riot gear.
A remaining political disagreement over the future reform of NATO, will be on the agenda when Bush meets German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Wednesday.
The Middle East, Afghanistan, Russia and Germany’s ambition to join the UN Security Council will also be discussed.
[Copyright Expatica 2005]
Subject: Belgian news