Bush ‘concerned’ by Van Gogh murder
22 February 2005
AMSTERDAM — Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende believes that US President George W. Bush was expressing concern about the murder of Theo van Gogh when he referred to the Netherlands on Monday.
“We must reject anti-Semitism in all forms and we must condemn violence such as that seen in the Netherlands,” Bush said during a speech in Brussels.
In reaction, Balkenende said murder is unusual in the Dutch context and that such an incident is therefore noticed internationally, news agency nu.nl reported. The prime minister intended to take up the matter with Bush on Wednesday.
Prior to the meeting between Bush, EU chiefs and Nato leaders on Tuesday, Balkenende said the comments by the US president were important given the discussion about integration in the Netherlands.
Balkenende said further that the US government was clearly working towards improving relations with Europe following Bush’s re-election last November. He said that applied to “all partners”.
At the request of the Luxembourg EU Presidency, Balkenende was due to give a short introduction about the co-operation between the US and Europe in the fight against terrorism at the start of the EU-US summit on Tuesday afternoon. “The EU and the US need each other in this area,” Balkenende said.
He added that the exchange of information — within the EU as well — had improved recently, but greater efforts were still needed. Balkenende was expected to discuss the financing of terrorism.
Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot said the relations between Europe and the US had improved. But he also said it was important that France and Germany — who were strongly opposed to the invasion of Iraq — also work towards better relations.
Meanwhile, former Dutch foreign minister and current Nato chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on Tuesday that all 26 alliance members are now helping the Iraqi government.
“All 26 allies are working together to respond to the Iraqi government’s request for support by training Iraqi security forces, providing equipment and helping to fund Nato’s efforts,” he said.
France confirmed on Tuesday it will join the mission and in referring to the divisions opened up by the Iraq war, Bush said “the key now is to put that behind us” and focus on consolidating democracy in Iraq.
Relations with Iran and Nato’s role in Afghanistan were also on the agenda at the alliance’s meeting, BBC reported. Bush was due to talk with EU leaders following the conclusion of the Nato meeting.
The main objective of Bush’s visit to Europe this week is to help improve relations soured by the Iraqi war. He will travel onto Germany on Wednesday and will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Slovakia on Thursday.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Dutch news