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Home >> Opinion
UPDATED: 07:35, February 24, 2005
Commentary: Bush's charm offensive heals few rifts with Europe
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Bush's fence-mending trip to Brussels ended Tuesday with few of the transatlantic disagreements resolved.

European Policy Center Director of Studies Fraser Cameron said in a paper that a number of significant differences in foreign and security policy still linger.

Bush's visit came one month after his second inauguration, an indication of his strong desire to narrow the divide with Europe.

The transatlantic ties have been strained since 2003 primarily due to rifts over the Iraq War. While the United States invaded Iraq without a UN mandate, France and Germany opposed the war strongly.

Bush's first-ever Europe tour after re-election had a clear mission to repair the relations. With speeches, bilateral talks and dinners with European leaders, Bush launched a charm campaign to win back EU's support on its top foreign priorities.

In return for Bush's call for reconciliation, European leaders made symbolic gestures by enhancing coordination and cooperation in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East amongst other issues.

The European Union (EU) announced it would train hundreds of Iraqi police officers and judges. NATO leaders pledged to make more efforts towards enhancing collective security.

All 26 allies in the military alliance agreed to contribute to NATO's assistance to Iraq, strengthen political dialogue in the alliance and expand its operation in Afghanistan by sending more Provincial Reconstruction Teams to the western part of the country.

However, France and Germany still refused to send troops to Iraq and resisted a wider role for NATO there.

On the thorny Iran nuclear issue, the differences between the United States and Europe remained.

Germany, Britain and France have championed negotiations to prevent Iran from developing nuclear arms. The Europeans are offering Tehran economic incentives such as membership of the World Trade Organization to encourage Iran give up its alleged nuclear ambitions.

In contrast, the United States has declined to join these talks and been skeptical of the approach. The Bush administration believes Iran should not be given incentives to comply with international agreements it already has signed.

"The results of this approach now depend largely on Iran," said Bush, adding that the Iranian government should join in the "movement towards liberty that is taking place all around them."

Bush refused to rule out the possibility of military attacks on Iran, saying all options remain on the table.

On global warming, Bush failed to commit to the Kyoto Protocol which entered into force last week without the United States as a signatory.

Bush, who alienated European allies and environmentalists by pulling out of the Kyoto pact in 2001, repeated his call to use technology to fight the effects of rising temperatures without cutting greenhouse emissions.

The EU, considered a global leader on climate change, was instrumental in saving the agreement by securing ratification from Russia.

Meanwhile, the general public in Europe has been found to largely oppose American unilateralism. A survey by the German Marshall Fund for the United States found that 62 percent of French citizens and 59 percent of Germans disapprove of Bush's foreign policies.

It is believed that while the two sides of the transatlantic community cherish their different strategies, their divide will remain and rifts could even deepen.

Source: Xinhua

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