HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, Dec. 1 -- President Bush on Wednesday outlined a second-term foreign policy that would make international cooperation his administration's top priority but put responsibility for Middle East peace efforts on the Palestinians, a tough stance at odds with some U.S. allies.
Addressing Canadian officials at the end of a two-day trip to the country, Bush vowed that his first order of business would be to build "multilateral institutions," signaling that, after a contentious first term, he was eager for more fruitful diplomacy.
Before a speech in Halifax, Nova Scotia, President Bush sits next to an illustration of two World War II-era legends: President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Bush pledged to support "effective multilateral action" and institutions.
(Larry Downing -- Reuters)
"A new term in office is an important opportunity to reach out to our friends," the president said, making his most extensive remarks on foreign affairs since his reelection last month. Pledging to "foster a wide international consensus" for "three great goals," he said the first would be "building effective multinational and multilateral institutions and supporting effective multilateral action." The other priorities, he said, are fighting terrorism and promoting democracy.
Yet, in a speech at this city's storied seaport, Bush made clear that such cooperation must occur on his terms, and he did not retreat from the first-term policies that angered some allies. Indeed, he appeared to harden his position on the Middle East by omitting the obligations he had previously placed on Israel and saying peace in the region could be achieved only through democratic reforms by the Palestinians.
With Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin sharing the stage, Bush again urged Canada to cooperate in a continental missile defense system -- an unpopular notion here -- and he implicitly rebuked Canada and the United Nations for not supporting the invasion of Iraq. "The objective of the U.N. and other institutions must be collective security, not endless debate," he said. "For the sake of peace, when those bodies promise serious consequences, serious consequences must follow."
Bush also suggested that Canada had strayed from the philosophy of William Lyon Mackenzie King, the World War II-era prime minister who said Canada must "meet the enemy before he reaches our shores." Bush said, "Mackenzie King was correct then, and we must always remember the wisdom of his words today."
The Canadian audience, though effusively welcoming Bush, sat mostly silent as he outlined his agenda. Martin, at a news conference after Bush departed, quarreled with Bush's historical reference and said Canada would not participate in the weaponization of space. Canadian officials, advised by U.S. officials that Bush would not raise the sensitive issue of missile defense, were surprised that he did so twice in as many days.
Still, Martin had only praise for Bush when introducing him here. He seconded Bush's "belief in the transformational power of liberty" and the need for border security. "We must defend this continent, secure its borders, guard its ports, and Canada is absolutely committed to doing whatever needs to be done," he said.
In his most significant comments on the Middle East since the death last month of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Bush signaled that he would intensify pressure on the Palestinians to democratize. Europeans had been seeking a U.S. policy that put more pressure on Israel, but Bush indicated he was heading in the other direction.
"Achieving peace in the Holy Land is not just a matter of pressuring one side or the other on the shape of a border or the site of a settlement," Bush said. "This approach has been tried before without success. As we negotiate the details of peace, we must look to the heart of the matter, which is the need for a Palestinian democracy."
That formulation removed expectations Bush had for Israel in the past. In his June 2002 speech on Middle East policy, Bush declared that "Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories must stop." In Wednesday's speech, Bush said this was "a time of change and a time of hope," but he said peace could be reached by only "one path: the path of democracy and reform and the rule of law."
Aides said Bush's message on his two-hour stop in Halifax was a preview of the sentiment he would voice on a trip to Europe this winter: extolling the importance of international cooperation while holding his ground on policy. A White House official said after the speech that the looming foreign challenges of Bush's second term -- Iran, North Korea and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- are likelier to be solved through diplomacy than with the sort of force used in Afghanistan and Iraq. "Diplomacy," the official said, "is essential to consolidate the gains of the first term."
Though reaching no breakthroughs on Iraq or trade disputes, Bush and Martin displayed a warmer personal relationship than the president had with Martin's predecessor, Jean Chretien. "Paul Martin is a leader who is asserting Canada's good influence in the world," Bush said. He drew appreciative laughter from the Canadians when he voiced hope for a return of professional hockey, whose players were locked out by owners in a labor dispute.
The president listed several areas where Canada and the United States cooperate, including weapons nonproliferation, AIDS, and policy toward Iran and North Korea. He said multilateral organizations "can do great good in the world."
Bush had warm words for Americans' northern neighbors, saying both nations are "better off" because of the daily commercial contacts that unite them. He thanked Canadians for housing American travelers stranded after the September 2001 terrorist attacks and said his administration would "do all that is necessary" to keep U.S.-Canada trade relations strong.
After anti-Bush protests in Ottawa on Tuesday, demonstrators were not visible near the converted waterfront pier where Bush spoke. On his motorcade route, one protest sign read, "Be Nice Mr. President." Bush said he sympathized with Canadians' resentment of American influence, joking, "It's not always easy to sleep next to the elephant."