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Powell Urges Europeans to Reconcile With U.S.

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 9, 2004; Page A23

BRUSSELS, Dec. 8 -- Secretary of State Colin L. Powell urged Europeans on Wednesday to put aside their differences with the United States over the Iraq war, arguing that Americans and Europeans have common values and face similar threats that should outweigh the controversies of recent years.

In a lengthy speech here, Powell acknowledged that "bumps and bruises" and "blustery days" have characterized transatlantic ties but made no apologies for the Bush administration's diplomatic style. He said bold decisions were necessary to combat terrorism and other threats.

"We need to have the courage to seek fundamental change and not be satisfied with just managing or containing threats," Powell said at the German Marshall Fund's Transatlantic Center. He said the world had waited too long to deal with Saddam Hussein in Iraq and the Taliban movement that ruled most of Afghanistan, and "we must be willing to create and seize opportunities."

Sometimes, Powell told a questioner, the United States "is the nag, sometimes we are the ones that shout perhaps more loudly than Europe would like us to shout." But he said the approach had paid dividends on issues such as Iran's possible pursuit of nuclear weapons. "As long as we solve the problem, then maybe that's not a bad way to go about it," Powell said.

U.S. officials said Powell's speech was aimed at laying the groundwork for a fence-mending visit to Brussels that President Bush plans to make early next year.

European leaders have contended that Bush has not done enough to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Powell pledged that the Bush administration "will be more active diplomatically" following the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat last month.

While Powell asserted that ties were on the mend, some strains are still evident. The NATO alliance is planning a training mission in Iraq, but five NATO members -- Belgium, France, Germany, Spain and Luxembourg -- have riled U.S. officials by refusing to allow their military officers assigned to NATO bases to take part in the mission.

Powell, who on Thursday will attend his last meeting at NATO headquarters here as secretary of state, was at times sentimental about a career that stretches back to his days as a young soldier 46 years ago, serving in Germany during the Cold War. He said, "I often like to brag, if you want to know who won the Cold War, I did with my 40 soldiers at the Fulda Gap," which is on the old border between East and West Germany.

Powell recalled that when he served as a Pentagon aide under President Ronald Reagan, Europeans protested U.S. efforts to deploy nuclear-armed missiles in Europe to counter the Soviets. But Powell said U.S. and European officials were able to withstand the public pressure -- and later he helped negotiate a treaty that eliminated such missiles on both sides.

In another anecdote that Powell offered to demonstrate the difficulty of accepting change, he said that when he was national security adviser in the waning days of the Cold War, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev turned to him and said, "Oh, General, I am so sorry, you're going to have to find a new enemy."

Powell said his rueful reaction was: "I don't want to. I've got a lot invested in this enemy. Don't change my life just because you're having a bad day."

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