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Bush meets with nato leaders { February 22 2005 }

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February 22, 2005
Looking for Help in Iraq, Bush Meets With NATO Leaders

BRUSSELS, Feb. 22 - President Bush met with NATO leaders today about the alliance's future role in Iraq, hoping to receive a pledge for more training aid.

The alliance's 26 members are expected to announce that to they will take part in a modest program to train Iraq's military.

Mr. Bush, who is holding summit meetings with both NATO and the European Union on his five-day European visit, said, "The Iraqis have defied the terrorists and showed the world they want to live in a free society, and we're there to help them."

The president spoke after a breakfast meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and later met with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy and Viktor A. Yushchenko, the new president of Ukraine.

Mr. Bush's meetings came after he warned Russia on Monday that it "must renew a commitment to democracy and the rule of law," but said he believed that the nation's future lay "within the family of Europe and the trans-Atlantic community."

The president's words opened his first trip across the Atlantic since his re-election and were part of a speech aimed at building a new relationship with Europe after the dispute over the American-led invasion of Iraq.

Mr. Bush's 31-minute speech in the grand setting of Concert Noble, a 19th-century hall, declared that in a "new era of trans-Atlantic unity," the United States and Europe must work together to rebuild Iraq, seek peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, insist that Iran not develop nuclear weapons and demand that Syria end its occupation of Lebanon.

But the speech, the start of a journey to Belgium, Germany and Slovakia, was most striking for his toughest words yet about President Vladimir V. Putin's rollback of democratic reforms and crackdown on dissent in Russia. Mr. Bush is to meet with Mr. Putin on Thursday in Slovakia's capital, Bratislava.

"We recognize that reform will not happen overnight," Mr. Bush said. "We must always remind Russia, however, that our alliance stands for a free press, a vital opposition, the sharing of power and the rule of law - and the United States and all European countries should place democratic reform at the heart of their dialogue with Russia."

In the evening, the president had a small dinner for his old nemesis, President Jacques Chirac of France, and appeared comfortable next to the man who had infuriated him by aggressively opposing the invasion of Iraq. But when a French reporter asked Mr. Bush if relations had improved enough for him to ask Mr. Chirac to his ranch, the president did not offer an invitation, and instead joked, "I'm looking for a good cowboy."

He added that "this is my first dinner since I've been re-elected on European soil, and it's with Jacques Chirac, and that ought to say something." American officials said they expected Mr. Chirac to visit Washington sometime in the next year.

After the dinner, at the home of Tom C. Korologos, the American ambassador to Belgium, a senior Bush administration official said Mr. Chirac and the president had discussed Iraq, Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian situation and American opposition to the European Union's plans to lift an arms embargo on China. The official said that "there will be more discussion" on the arms embargo, but neither side appeared to have budged on that issue, or any other.

Overall, the official said, the dinner was positive. "If I say frank, that's the wrong word, because it's usually the euphemism for bad," the official said. "I would use the word productive."

In his speech at Concert Noble, Mr. Bush offered an elaboration of American policy on Israel and the Palestinians, emphasizing that a new nation of Palestine must be made up of "contiguous territory" on the West Bank and that "a state of scattered territories will not work."

He emphatically said that Syria must withdraw its troops from Lebanon, and that "without Syrian interference, Lebanon's parliamentary elections in the spring can be another milestone of liberty."

On Iran, he said that the government must end its support of terrorism and not develop nuclear weapons, and that in American dealings with the country, "no option can be taken permanently off the table." But in the next sentence he stepped back from the threat of military force and said that Iran was different from Iraq and that "we're in the early stages of diplomacy."

White House officials had promoted the speech as a major embrace of European unity, and had released excerpts on Sunday night suggesting that the president would extensively support the idea of the 25-member European Union as a partner rather as a rival to the United States.

But he did not devote more than a few sentences to those ideas, and cast his support for a new European unity in the context of his goal of advancing liberty.

"America supports Europe's democratic unity for the same reason we support the spread of democracy in the Middle East - because freedom leads to peace," Mr. Bush said. "And America supports a strong Europe because we need a strong partner in the hard work of advancing freedom in the world."

On the Kyoto Treaty on global warming, which the Europeans support and the Bush administration opposes, he said that each side had expressed its views and that "now we must work together on the way forward." He said all countries could develop technologies like hydrogen-powered cars and clean-coal programs to slow the growth of greenhouse gases.

Although Mr. Bush delivered his speech in the heart of the new Europe, Brussels, the headquarters of NATO and the European Union, the setting chosen by the White House was very much old Europe. He spoke to an audience of some 300 European officials, business leaders and academics under five enormous crystal chandeliers and a domed ceiling, and was framed by a gilt-edged doorway draped with luxurious folds of crimson silk. Before his arrival, the sounds of Beethoven's Sixth Symphony filled the room.

The president received warm but not enthusiastic applause, a response that two senior Bush administration officials insisted was typical of the restrained European response to politicians' speeches. But some in the audience said Europeans would be disappointed by Mr. Bush's words.

"This is not yet the breakthrough speech they would have hoped for," said Timothy Garton Ash, a professor of European studies at St. Antony's College at Oxford University who attended the speech. "That speech would have needed much more recognition and support of the E.U."

The president, Mr. Garton Ash added, was doing all the right things in his visit to the headquarters of the European Union on Tuesday, but "he's walking the walk and not talking the talk."

But Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt of Belgium, Mr. Bush's host, praised the speech. "He came to Europe with a very good mood," Mr. Verhofstadt said in an interview. "You have seen that in the speech. He was very open; he was very positive. He was listening to what we have said. It was not business as usual."

Mr. Bush himself alluded to what he expected to be a cool European reception when he quoted John Adams, although not by name, on Benjamin Franklin's service as American ambassador to Paris more than two centuries ago.

"His reputation was more universal than Leibniz or Newton, Frederick or Voltaire, and his character more beloved and esteemed than any or all of them," Mr. Bush quoted Adams on Franklin. Adams went on to say, the president said, that "there was scarcely a peasant or a citizen" who "did not consider him as a friend to humankind."

Referring to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Mr. Bush then said to laughter that "I have been hoping for a similar reception, but Secretary Rice told me I should be a realist."

Europeans appeared so eager to have the president embrace the idea of a new European federation that Mr. Verhofstadt went so far as to bring up the history of one of Europe's biggest failures in his remarks introducing him.

"Ten years ago, Europe failed to intervene in the civil war in the former Yugoslavia, even though that war was raging just a few hours from here," he said. "We had to wait for you, the United States, to put an end to it. Europe itself hesitated and was too divided to take action."

Mr. Verhofstadt added: "That was the ultimate proof that Europe can do little or nothing unless it is united and cooperates. To paraphrase my illustrious predecessor, Paul Henri Spaak, Europe consists solely of small countries. There are some who know it. And there are some who are now beginning to understand - just like James Madison and George Washington understood in 1787 in Philadelphia - that a loose confederation must be forged into a strong union."

Mr. Bush met with Mr. Verhofstadt on Monday morning for more than an hour, twice as long as scheduled. In an interview afterward, the prime minister said the two had spent little time on Iraq.

Mr. Verhofstadt said his message to Mr. Bush was "O.K., we still differ on Iraq so let's not continue to talk about that issue."

Belgium, which bitterly opposed the war in Iraq and has refused to send any military or police forces on the ground there in training missions, recently agreed to help in military training of Iraqis in Jordan, to join Germany's training effort in Abu Dhabi and to commit money to the joint NATO fund to train Iraqi military and police, Mr. Verhofstadt added.

Elaine Sciolino contributed reporting for this article.

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

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