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Archive for Monday, May 27, 2002

Bush insists U.S. relationship with Europe strong

May 27, 2002

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— While French President Jacques Chirac was listing policy disagreements he has with the United States, President Bush insisted Sunday that U.S. foreign policy decisions are not driving a wedge between the United States and its oldest European allies.

Although he described a private meeting with Bush as "intense, candid, friendly," Chirac criticized U.S. trade policy. The French president also renewed criticism of Bush's abandonment of the Kyoto Protocol on reducing global warming.

Chirac, who has taken issue with Bush on the war on terrorism, was careful to suggest that he and Bush have "a similar understanding" about how the war should progress without being specific on such matters as the possibility of a U.S. attack on Iraq.

On trade policy, Chirac denounced Bush's imposition of tariffs on steel imported to the United States and new farm legislation that would increase Washington's subsidies of U.S. farmers by billionsboth of which are seen as handicapping America's trading partners.

"These are, of course, very real issues, and real answers have to be given to these problems after consultation and intense dialogue," Chirac said in a joint news conference with Bush before the two leaders retired to a private dinner.

Bush said he did not believe his policies were fueling anti-American sentiment overseas, adding that differences between nations are inevitable but not necessarily detrimental.

"There's a heck of a lot more that unites us than divides us," Bush said.

Arriving in Paris from Russia Sunday, Bush also said Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom he met late last week, proposed having international inspectors examine the nuclear reactors Russia is helping to build in Iran to prove that the Iranians are not using them to produce weapons.

Bush's advisers immediately played down his remark, saying Putin raised the possibility of allowing inspections of the reactors but that there are no plans for doing so. Moreover, they noted, Iran has not been consulted about allowing them.

Bush, who is on a six-day tour of Europe, also said Sunday that he was less concerned about Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's current testing of guided missiles than he is about Musharraf's ability to maintain an upper hand with would-be terrorists in his country.

Protesters have greeted Bush in Germany, Russia and France, though their numbers and ability to make news varied wildly from country to country. About 1,500 people from 30 organizations are expected to be waiting today for Bush near Normandy, where he is to make a Memorial Day speech.

Bush chided a reporter who asked about his policy initiatives and European dissent.

"The only thing I know to do is speak my mind, to talk about my values, to talk about our mutual love for freedom and the willingness to defend freedom," Bush said. "I think a lot of people on the continent of Europe appreciate that."

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