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In Europe, Bush Defends U.S. Policy 

MARK SILVA / Chicago Tribune 21jun2006

 

Wien wird ein heißes Pflaster für Bush. Die Mehrheit der Österreicher lehnt die US-Politik ab. - APA - Vienna becomes a hot pavement for bush. The majority of the Austrians rejects the US-politics. | (c) APA

Wien wird ein heißes Pflaster für Bush.
Die Mehrheit der Österreicher lehnt die US-Politik ab.

rough translation:
Vienna becomes a hot pavement for Bush.
The majority of Austrians reject the US-politics.

VIENNA, Austria — President Bush, eager to counter the perceived threats of Iran and North Korea, instead found himself Wednesday passionately defending the United States against suggestions that the U.S. threatens world security with its own foreign policies.

"That's absurd," Bush said at a news conference Wednesday in historic Hofburg Palace where European reporters pressed the president about declining European public opinion toward the U.S. "We'll defend ourselves, but at the same time, we're actively working with our partners to spread peace and democracy."

Bush, on a three-day tour of Europe, is intent on pressing European allies to maintain a united front in a standoff with Iran over its pursuit of nuclear technology and also to make good on a continental commitment to pay for the rebuilding of war-torn Iraq.

But in his private encounters with European leaders, some appeared as interested in pressing the American president on the closing of the U.S.-run detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other issues that question the American commitment to human rights. Bush raised the issue on his own, and pledged as he has before that he will eventually close the camp.

"I'd like to end Guantanamo. I'd like it to be over with," Bush said.

With about 400 detainees still there, mainly from Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Yemen, the president said he is awaiting a Supreme Court ruling on how many will be tried. "One of the things we will do is we'll send people back to their home countries… There are some who need to be tried in U.S. courts. They're cold-blooded killers. They will murder somebody if they're let out on the street."

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel, serving as president of the 25-nation European Union, said Bush gave "clear, clear" indications that the U.S. will resolve Guantanamo as well as guarantee the rights of individuals suspected of terrorism in other countries — a sensitive issue in Europe since the disclosure that the U.S. has operated secret prisons on the continent.

"The president started, himself," Schussel said after a private meeting among Bush, his senior advisers, EU leaders and diplomats. "He didn't wait that we raise the question. He came up and said, 'Look, this is my problem. This is where we are.'

"We are calling for the closure of Guantanamo," Schussel said. "But our discussion today went far beyond the closing of Guantanamo… And we got clear, clear signals and a commitment from the American side — no torture, no extraordinary or extra-territorial positions to deal with the terrorists… All the legal rights must be preserved." 

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Bush's encounter with the European press wasn't as appreciative, as he was pressed to explain the impact of his policies.

"You might be aware that in Europe the image of America is still falling," said Raimund Loew, Washington bureau chief for the Austrian Broadcasting Corp., asking Bush why he had "failed" to win the "hearts and minds" of Europeans.

"I thought it was absurd for people to think that we're more dangerous than Iran," Bush said, emotionally confronting the criticism, his voice rising in a palatial ballroom where Beethoven had first performed his Eighth Symphony. "People didn't agree with my decision on Iraq. I understand that… I don't govern by polls. I just do what I think is right, and I understand that some of the decisions I've made are controversial.

"I'll try my best to explain to the Europeans that, on the one hand, we're tough when it comes to the war on terror… On the other hand, we'll help feed the hungry," Bush said. "I will do my best to explain our foreign policy. On the one hand, it's tough when it needs to be. On the other hand, it's compassionate."

Yet some experts say Bush will have trouble convincing Europeans to make and keep financial commitments to Iraq, which has collected just $3 billion of $13 billion that has been pledged.

"I am sure the European governments don't want to commit themselves to any major things because what is happening is so unpopular — Iraq looks like a quagmire," said Phillipe Moreau Defarges, an analyst with the Paris-based Institute for International Relations.

And for all the pride that EU leaders have taken in leading negotiations with Iran, Defarges suggested, it's inevitable that Iran will join the nuclear club.

The war, Guantanamo and the broader question of the American commitment to human rights weigh heavily on many Europeans, whose overall opinion of the U.S. has diminished since the invasion of Iraq.

In Western Europe, attitudes toward the U.S. are "considerably more negative" than they were in 2002, according to the newest findings of an annual survey of global attitudes by the Washington-based Pew Research Center. The share of Europeans expressing favorable opinions about the U.S. has declined to 39 percent in France this year, Pew has found, down from 63 percent in 2002.

In Vienna, a few hundred students chanted "Bush Go Home" at a train station rally. Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son in Iraq and has protested outside the president's ranch in Texas, led the student protestors here.

In his meeting, Bush found ready support for a demand that Iran suspend the enrichment of uranium which many believe is leading to development of nuclear weaponry. But Bush said Iran is taking too long to respond to an offer of incentives, with Iran announcing Wednesday that it will have a response ready Aug. 22.

"It shouldn't take the Iranians that long to analyze what is a reasonable deal," Bush said. "I said weeks, not months."

Schussel said: "We have come to a crossroad on the Iranian nuclear issue…It's better to agree as soon as possible. The time is limited and I think we should not play with time."

Bush declined to say how the U.S. will respond if North Korea, which has announced it has nuclear bombs, test fires a missile as threatened. But he has insisted that the U.S. will seek sanctions against Iran from the United Nations Security Council if Iran does not suspend its enrichment.

source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/custom/newsroom/chi-060621bush-eu,1,2463005.story?coll=chi-news-hed 21jun2006


Bush's Goals in Austria May Be Overshadowed

His agenda for the EU meeting is democracy, security and prosperity,
but public opposition to his Iraq policies and
war on terrorism is broad

JAMES GERSTENZANG & ALISSA J RUBIN / Los Angeles Times 21jun2006

 

VIENNA — President Bush stepped off Air Force One on a warm night Tuesday in the heart of Central Europe, and into the steamy debate over the U.S. war in Iraq and his administration's tactics in countering terrorism.

He began a 21-hour visit to Austria, built around a meeting with the leaders of the European Union, as the United States and its allies await Iran's response to their latest anti-nuclear proposals. Bush also plans a similar quick stop in Hungary tonight and Thursday.

The president arrived with what his national security advisor, Stephen Hadley, said last week were three goals: "Promoting freedom and democracy, enhancing security and pursuing greater global prosperity." The goals draw little debate, but the means for achieving them are tearing at the European political and social fabric.

Though the U.S. agenda with Europe covers global trade negotiations, European farm subsidies and Iran, Austrians want their leaders to confront Bush's policies in Iraq, the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the "rendition" of suspected terrorists to countries that permit torture. Newspapers and TV talk shows have discussed little else in recent days, with people at both ends of the political spectrum denouncing the treatment of terrorism suspects who have not been charged with crimes.

The visit to this officially neutral country is the first by a U.S. president since Jimmy Carter met Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev here in 1979 to sign an arms control treaty. Bush is meeting with Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, EU president.

Peter Pilz, a spokesman on security issues for the leftist Green Party, said of Bush's visit: "It is problematic to welcome as guest a politician who wages unconstitutional wars, uses falsified secret … reports as an excuse to do so, is willing to preemptively deploy nuclear weapons, who tolerates kidnappings, torture and illegal detention camps as a means of security policy."

Joerg Haider, former leader of the far-right Freedom Party, said in an interview with the moderately conservative newspaper Die Presse that Bush was turning the Middle East "into a witches' caldron."

"The summit will not change anything," said Haider, who is best-known for anti-Semitic comments and opposition to immigrants when his party was part of the government.

Austria's widely read news magazine Profil featured Bush on its cover this week, under the headline "The Mad World of George Bush."

"What makes the leader of the last superpower tick? Just how fanatical is he?" the magazine asked. In the city of Freud, it drew a deeply unflattering psychological profile of the president, under the headline "Bush on the Couch."

The visit to Budapest, the Hungarian capital, will give Bush an opportunity to commemorate the unsuccessful partisan uprising against Soviet domination in 1956. The revolution foreshadowed the disintegration more than three decades later of communist rule across Central and Eastern Europe, and provides the U.S. leader a metaphor for the broader democracy that he has promoted as the foundation of his Middle East policies.

Noting the division in Europe over the war, Bush said Monday at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., "Some of the most important support for Iraqis is coming from European democracies with recent memories of tyranny." He cited Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Georgia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia as examples.

But he acknowledged that "others in Europe have had disagreements with our decisions on Iraq."

Bush is making a renewed push to get those who have promised to help rebuild Iraq to begin paying up. Of the $13.5 billion in assistance that has been pledged, he said Monday, only $3.5 billion has been paid.

Large amounts are due from Iraq's wealthier Persian Gulf neighbors, but Europe also owes money, Hadley said last week.

The meeting with the EU leadership has been long-scheduled, but its timing allows the president to promote a united front in the effort to pressure Iran to suspend enrichment of nuclear fuel, which the Bush administration sees as an immediate and pressing problem.

The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — the U.S., Russia, China, France and Britain — and Germany offered a package of incentives early this month to persuade Iran to halt its nuclear program. Since then, Iran has been lobbying hard to soften the terms so it can continue some uranium enrichment as "research and development."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Friday that the offer was under serious consideration.

In the view of some analysts in Washington, the diplomatic strategy on Iran may allow the U.S. to present a less bellicose image than it has regarding Iraq, potentially softening the impression Bush creates.

Having recently agreed to join other nations in direct negotiations with Iran, "President Bush has improved his standing and support among European leaders," Jon B. Wolfsthal and Jennifer Hamilton wrote in a paper for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington policy research organization.

And, they said, with the EU's top officials at his side, Bush "can in one step make clear that the offer on the table is the best Iran can hope to receive."

Austria is the 54th country Bush has visited as president; Hungary will be the 55th.

Die Presse, reflecting none of the potentially tempered view of him that Wolfsthal and Hamilton raised, featured a cartoon that suggested Bush might have become confused.

The cartoon showed the president in a pub talking to students, with a thought bubble over his head. It had him thinking, "funny kangaroos" — a jeering suggestion that Bush would mistake Austria for Australia.

source: http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-fg-bush21jun21,1,374092,print.story?coll=la-news-a_section&ctrack=1&cset=true 21jun2006

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