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Bush Arrives in Europe for Meetings With Leaders

Unity and Democracy Will Be Major Themes

By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 21, 2005; Page A18

BRUSSELS, Feb. 20 -- President Bush arrived here Sunday night determined to set a new tone for U.S. relations with Europe, although administration officials are not promising significant changes in the policies that soured relations between the longtime allies during the president's first term.

Bush, who is to meet with European Union and NATO officials Monday and Tuesday in Belgium's capital, has said he is eager to put the recent disagreements between the United States and Europe in the past.

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush disembark from Air Force One upon their arrival in Brussels. Bush will spend three nights in Belgium before visiting Germany and Slovakia later in the week. (Pool Photo Via AP)

"He'll talk about how this is a time to move beyond past differences and work in unity," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

In a speech to be delivered Monday at the historic Concert Noble music hall, Bush is expected to call on European allies to join the United States in focusing on their "shared values" to work together to spread freedom around the world -- a theme Bush sounded both in his inaugural address and his State of the Union message, and one that lies at the core of his second-term foreign policy.

"As past debates fade, and great duties become clear, let us begin a new era of transatlantic unity," Bush will say in the speech, according to excerpts released by the White House.

But even as the president reaches out to allies that he angered during his first term by invading Iraq and refusing to join an international environmental treaty, the administration made clear the change was likely to be more of style than of substance.

A senior administration official said the United States had no intention of directly joining ongoing talks aimed at restraining Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program, although many European officials have expressed concern that the talks involving Britain, France, Germany and Iran will fail without U.S. involvement.

"The issue and the problem is Iran's behavior," the U.S. official said. "My sense is that the Europeans want to talk to us in exactly those terms, which is the right way to talk about it."

Similarly, the official said, the United States had "real problems" with E.U. plans to lift an arms embargo imposed on China after the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Still, Bush administration officials said there was more room for optimism on other issues. The United States expects the E.U. to offer more help to stabilize democracy in Iraq by training police investigators and other officials. During his speech Monday, Bush also is expected to talk about the environment, a key issue for many Europeans.

Bush will spend three nights in Belgium before meeting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Germany on Wednesday. Bush will then travel to Slovakia, where he will talk with Russian President Vladimir Putin, before returning home Thursday evening.

"We had considered this trip to be one of building a strategic agenda, which obviously involves also tone and mood," the official said. "But in terms of substance, building a strategic agenda, getting straight among ourselves and with the Europeans what we want to accomplish in the next four years is a very tall order."

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