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Bush Speech Aims To Repair Trans-Atlantic Ties

Prague, 21 February 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Bush told European officials gathered in Brussels today that disagreements like the one over the invasion of Iraq should not divide the trans-Atlantic alliance.

"Our strong friendship is essential to peace and prosperity across the globe, and no temporary debate, no passing disagreement of governments, no power on Earth will ever divide us," Bush said.

Bush said that as the United States and Europe look toward their common challenge ahead, rather than divisive issues of the past, a new era of trans-Atlantic unity can begin.

"When Europe and America stand together, no problem can stand against us," Bush said. "As past debates fade, as great duties become clear, let us begin a new era of trans-Atlantic unity."

The first common challenge mentioned by the U.S. president today was what he called the "immediate goal" of ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Our greatest opportunity and immediate goal is peace in the Middle East," Bush said. "After many false starts and dashed hopes and stolen lives, a settlement of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is now within reach."

The European officials gathered for the speech applauded when Bush issued a strong statement calling for Iran to abide by its obligations under international law. Bush said the results of a diplomatic approach with Iran depend upon Iran complying with its obligations under international law.

"The Iranian regime must end its support for terrorism and must not develop nuclear weapon," Bush said. "Safeguarding the security of free nations, no option can be taken permanently off the table. Iran is, however, different from Iraq. We are in the early stages of diplomacy."

Policy toward Iran has been a point of disagreement between the United States and the European Union. Europeans have expressed concern that their efforts to convince Iran to stop its nuclear-enrichment programs will fail without greater U.S. involvement. A senior U.S. administration recently said that the U.S. has no intention of joining the talks.

The European officials also applauded when Bush described the presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon as an "occupation" force.

"Just as the Syrian regime must take stronger action to stop those who support violence and subversion in Iraq, and must end its support for terrorist groups seeking to destroy the hope of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, Syria must also end its occupation of Lebanon," Bush said.

Bush also said that Russia needs to "renew its commitment" to the path of democracy and the rule of law.

"For Russia to make progress as a European nation, the Russian government must renew a commitment to democracy and the rule of law," Bush said. "We recognize that reform will not happen overnight. We must always remind Russia, however, that our alliance stands for a free press, a vital opposition, the sharing of power and the rule of law. And the United States and all European countries should place democratic reform at the heart of their dialogue with Russia."

Bush is due to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Bratislava on 24 February.

Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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