PARIS, NOV. 18 -- President Bush continued his effort to hold together the international coalition against Iraq here tonight following a brief meeting in Germany with Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who strongly urged the president to continue searching for a peaceful resolution to the Persian Gulf crisis.
"The best way to get a peaceful solution, send a solid signal to Saddam Hussein that his aggression will not be rewarded," is for the international "commonwealth of nations" to stand together, Bush said just before leaving the medieval city of Speyer, Germany, for Paris.
He dined with French President Francois Mitterrand in a session that his aides said was to center on the gulf and Mitterrand's urgings that international sanctions be given more time to work before a military response is considered.
Bush will attend a three-day meeting of the 34-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe beginning here Monday and take part in signing the first postwar treaty limiting conventional military forces in Europe. But he also has scheduled individual meetings with international leaders at which the gulf crisis is expected to be a major topic of discussion.
This is Bush's first high-level round of diplomacy since he ordered an additional 200,000 U.S. troops to the gulf region, and in remarks in Czechoslovakia Saturday and Germany today, the president emphasized that a Europe rejoicing in the aftermath of its democratic revolutions must not turn inward, but must stand up to Iraqi aggression.
In Speyer, where Bush dined with Kohl at his home, the president celebrated the unification of Germany and expressed his delight at being the first U.S. president to visit "the new Germany." Several hundred Germans, many of whom had welcomed Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev there on a treaty-signing trip a week ago, greeted Bush and Kohl today.
Bush, in a brief statement cut short by rain, gently nudged Germany to take a stronger role in the "commonwealth of nations." In a prepared text distributed to reporters that went undelivered because of the downpour, Bush also had planned to say: "Just as a new Europe must look beyond its borders, so too must a united Germany take responsibility for leadership in our commonwealth of nations."
Asked later what more he would like to see Germany do in the gulf crisis, Bush said: "I think exactly what the chancellor says, keep the coalition together. . . . I think we're together with Germany in the gulf. I made no special request."
Referring to an earlier interview with German radio in which Kohl urged that every possibility for negotiation be explored, Bush said, "We're in very close accord here." In the radio interview, Kohl said that he saw a strong chance for a "negotiated settlement" and said that had to be the goal of the international community. He also expressed concern about the consequences of military conflict.
Bush has been emphatic in rejecting any negotiations with Baghdad until Iraq withdraws from Kuwait unconditionally and releases its foreign hostages and the Kuwaiti government is restored. Kohl stressed in the interview the need for release of the hostages and said that negotiations "can only be successful if both sides want their success and if the consequences of this assault are removed."
"I've read what he's said," Bush said of Kohl's comments and asserted that he and Kohl are in agreement on gulf policy. "We're not ruling out any options; we're not ruling any options in. I want to see a peaceful resolution to this question." Bush said that in his discussions with Kohl, the chancellor had "made very clear he'd like to see a peaceful resolution to this question, and so would I."
White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said later that Bush and Kohl are "on the same wavelength" on the gulf and that Kohl was "very supportive" in the meeting between the two leaders. Kohl's emphasis on negotiation, he said, "was just a different way of saying the same thing" as the president.
Bush's five hours in Kohl's home state of Rhineland-Palatinate almost on the eve of German parliamentary elections were reminiscent of an American campaign swing, complete with ringing words of endorsement for Kohl from the president and a series of hand-shaking forays by the two leaders into crowds gathered along restraining lines.
Bush gave Kohl a strong endorsement, saying he was "delighted to celebrate this moment in the home area of the first chancellor of this new Germany, a great son of Speyer . . . the man who united Germany."