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Archive for Sunday, June 1, 2003

Bush urges anti-terror alliance

June 1, 2003

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— President Bush implored the great powers of continental Europe Saturday to overcome their bitterness about the war in Iraq and pull behind the United States to fight terrorism.

Hours after strolling somberly along a rail spur at the Auschwitz concentration camp in an effort to evoke the perils of evil in any age, Bush told a crowd in Krakow, Poland, that the "enemies of freedom" would win if the West's divisions over the war persisted.

"This is a time for all of us to unite in the defense of liberty and to step up to the shared duties of free nations," he said in the sunny courtyard of Wawel Royal Castle, where Polish kings ruled for 600 years. "This is no time to stir up divisions in a great alliance."

In addition, Bush announced that his administration was undertaking a new initiative to foster international cooperation in seizing ships and aircraft suspected of carrying illegal weapons or technology.

Shift in tone

His address marked a striking shift in rhetoric for the Bush administration, which is facing renewed criticism at home and abroad for the military's failure to find the weapons of mass destruction that Bush said was a chief reason for going to war in Iraq. Bush and his aides made clear, however, that he envisioned an alliance dedicated to U.S. aims and that his stance today was more a matter of practicality than forgiveness.

"We believe in a transatlantic alliance to do the work that needs to be done," a senior administration official said.

France, Germany and Russia opposed the war and, by blocking U.N. authorization of the use of force in Iraq, left Bush with few major partners. As recently as a week ago, administration officials said they were studying possible retribution, especially against France.

Saturday, on the second day of a week-long diplomatic tour, Bush said the transatlantic allies must move beyond wartime squabbling to peaceful cooperation. He challenged the Europeans to put more money into AIDS prevention and famine relief, but terrorism was his chief reason for reconciliation.

"Every civilized nation has a stake in the outcome," he said. "By waging this fight together, we will speed the day of final victory."

Search and seizure

Bush announced creation of a Proliferation Security Initiative, aimed at reaching agreements among nations to allow searches of planes and ships carrying suspect cargo and for the seizure of banned weapons or missile technologies. The administration said Poland, Britain, Spain and Australia, as well as some unnamed countries, had expressed interest in participating. The effort is being run by the National Security Council, State Department and Defense Department.

"Over time, we will extend this partnership as broadly as possible to keep the world's most destructive weapons away from our shores and out of the hands of our common enemies," he said.

A senior administration official said the initiative was largely a result of the White House's disappointment late last year when the United States and Spain seized a North Korean ship carrying Scud missiles to Yemen from North Korea, then released the vessel when Yemen protested that the weapons were for defensive use.

'Never forget'

Shortly before the speech, Bush visited the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau. He laid a wreath at the Death Wall, used by firing squads in a courtyard between two long barracks -- one of which held prisoners who had been sentenced to death by starvation.

First lady Laura Bush placed a long-stemmed rose on a cast-iron gurney that was used to push bodies into ovens for incineration, and the president signed the guest book, "Never forget, George W. Bush." The Bushes also viewed stables that had been built for 52 horses but were crammed with more than 400 starving prisoners.

Pausing briefly in front of cameras after his tour, Bush looked shaken. He called the sites "a sobering reminder that when we find anti-Semitism, whether it be in Europe or anywhere else, mankind must come together to fight such dark impulses."

Stopover in Russia

Bush landed Saturday night in St. Petersburg and traveled to Peterhof Palace, the grand summer estate of the czars, where Putin was his escort for an outdoor ballet performance and massive fireworks show celebrating the city's 300th anniversary.

Today, Bush flies to the ski resort of Evian, France, for a summit of the Group of Eight industrial democracies, where few of the leaders will be toasting the U.S.-led military victory in Iraq. His speech today set a conciliatory tone for the private meetings he will hold with Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Jacques Chirac of France and for his encounter with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in a group setting.

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