By MELISSA EDDY
The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 24, 2007; 3:23 PM
BERLIN -- World leaders praised President Bush on Wednesday for taking a step forward on global warming in his State of the Union address, but added that concrete goals are needed to significantly reduce greenhouse gasses.
The president's ideas on Iraq fell largely flat, however, amid criticism that his plan to send more troops doesn't offer anything new.
Bush's proposal to reduce U.S. gasoline consumption by 20 percent over the next decade with tougher fuel economy standards and mandatory production of more ethanol and other alternative fuels got widespread praise as an important step in the fight against global warming.
"His remarks about climate change, his willingness to reduce energy consumption and to support alternative energy sources, will be welcomed in Europe in general, and in Germany especially," said Karsten Voigt, coordinator for the German government's relations with the U.S.
"It also has an impact for security policy because it diminishes our dependence on the oil-producing countries," Voigt said in a telephone interview.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has been urging the U.S. to do more on climate change, told the House of Commons he is optimistic after hearing Bush's speech. "I do believe this whole debate is now moving in a completely different and more positive direction," Blair said.
The goals set by Bush are an important step, but he also needs to ensure they are implemented, James Cameron, chief executive of Britain's Climate Change Capital, said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
If "the U.S. is moving in that direction, it's a tremendous alignment with the rest of the world and should make it easier to get international agreement on climate change following the end of the Kyoto protocol," he said.
But others said that in failing to set specific targets for energy consumption, Bush did not go far enough to make an impact in the fight against global warming.
"It could have been even better if he had had more things to offer in relation to what American households and companies should do more of," said Danish Environment Minister Connie Hedegaard.
Others were even more skeptical.
"We find the president's actions to tackle climate change as being profoundly weak, although at long last the president is acknowledging that the issue is a serious challenge," said Don Henry, executive director of the Australian Conservation Foundation.
Bush was widely criticized on Iraq, with critics saying he is sticking with a failed policy by send in more American troops.
The president "thinks there is a military solution to the Iraqi problem," French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said on LCI television. "We think exactly the opposite," he added, urging that foreign troops withdraw from Iraq.
Even in Japan's government, a supporter of the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, critics saw little evidence of a new Iraq strategy.
"President Bush's decision to enter the war against Iraq, based on the assumption that the weapons of mass destruction existed, was a mistake," said Japanese Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma, an unusual rebuke from the top U.S. ally in East Asia.
In Russia, Kremlin-connected political analyst Sergei Markov told the RIA-Novosti news agency that the Iraq plan could make Bush "the worst president of the USA in the past 100 years."
Some of the sharpest criticism came over Bush's comments on the broader Middle East, where he warned of the danger from Shiite extremists and said they are being aided by Iran in Iraq and Lebanon. He specifically named the Lebanese group Hezbollah.
Iran said Bush was trying to spark divisions between Shiites and Sunnis and between Iran and Arab nations. "This accusation is often repeated, aiming at creating conflict among countries of the region," Javad Jahangirzadeh, a member of the Iranian parliament's committee on national security and foreign policy, told state television.
And Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned Iraqi President Jalal Talabani that the new Bush strategy would weaken Iraq's government. "This strategy is also doomed to fail as the previous U.S. plans," he told Talabani by telephone, according to Iran's state TV.
The comments also hit a nerve in Lebanon, where lawmaker Nawar Saheli told AP Television News that Bush should listen to the Lebanese people. "They do not want the U.S. government to interfere in the Lebanese internal affairs," he said.