President Bush, about to embark on a fence-mending trip overseas, said Thursday that Europeans wrongly believed his only interest was America’s security. “We also care deeply about hunger and disease,” he said.
A primary objective of next week’s trip is to make sure Europeans know that “as we move beyond the differences of the past, that we can work a lot together to achieve big objectives,” Bush said.
Bush is very unpopular in Europe, particularly because of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Europeans also are upset about other issues, from Bush’s opposition to the Kyoto climate treaty to what is widely viewed as a go-it-alone foreign policy. Differences over Iran and China are high on the list, too.
President to step into lion’s den
The president will fly Sunday to Brussels, Belgium, for three days of talks with allies, many of whom believe the United States has ignored their views and is unwilling to listen. French President Jacques Chirac, perhaps Bush’s biggest critic, has been invited to dine with the president Monday evening. Bush also will meet NATO leaders and then visit the headquarters of the 25-nation European Union.
Bush will talk with the leaders about specific steps to support the new government in Iraq, national security adviser Stephen Hadley said. He said the president would ask European nations to follow the U.S. lead in increasing money to help the Palestinian Authority build democratic institutions.
Tuesday, Bush will meet separately with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and Ukraine’s new president, Viktor Yushchenko. Yushchenko said Thursday that withdrawal of his country’s soldiers from Iraq was a priority.
From Brussels, Bush will travel to Mainz, Germany, for talks with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, and finally to Bratislava, Slovakia, to see Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States was troubled by the concentration of power in the Kremlin and the lack of independent media in Russia. But she said isolating Russia would be a mistake. “It is, after all, only recently emerging from the Soviet Union,” she said.
President seeks ‘one voice’ on Iran
Bush, at a news conference, refused to say whether he would offer support for efforts by France, Germany and Britain to persuade Iran to scrap its uranium enrichment program in exchange for technological, financial and political support. European leaders say Iran is unlikely to sign onto an agreement that lacks U.S. endorsement.
Bush said he would talk with allies “to make sure we continue to speak with one voice” in demanding that Iran not develop nuclear weapons. He also said he would seek a consensus on how to press Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon.
“There is a concern in Europe, I suspect, that the only thing I care about is our national security,” Bush said. He said it was a subject at the top of his agenda because of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“But we also care deeply about hunger and disease,” Bush said. “And I look forward to working with the Europeans on hunger and disease.”
Blair, as chairman of the Group of Eight industrial nations, is trying to rally allies to work on poverty in Africa and around the world. Blair also has made the battle against climate change a priority.
Bush offered no apologies for opposing the Kyoto treaty, which the Europeans embraced. “They thought the treaty made sense. I didn’t.” Still, he said there were new technologies to help achieve a better environment.