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Bush Heads to Europe With Broad Agenda

By Paula Wolfson
Ljubljana, Slovenia
09 June 2008

U.S. President George Bush is on his way to Europe for talks with European Union leaders in Slovenia, and discussions in Germany, Italy, the Vatican, France and the United Kingdom. VOA White House Correspondent Paula Wolfson reports it is likely to be his last official visit to the region, before leaving office.

White House National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley says the president will pursue a broad agenda in Europe.

"At the U.S.-European Union summit and during his bilateral stops, the President will encourage Europe to work with the United States to confront a series of global challenges that face us both," he said.

Those challenges include trade, climate change, the global food crisis and a wide range of security issues - from encouraging stability in the Balkans to bringing peace to the Middle East.

During his travels, the president will meet the leaders of France, Germany and Britain - the three European countries engaged in a diplomatic initiative with Iran. Hadley says Mr. Bush will discuss ways to keep Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

"The leaders will discuss how to step up our diplomatic efforts, both multi-laterally and uni-laterally, including imposing greater sanctions under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1803," Hadley added.

But Hadley says he expects no breakthroughs on any major issues, adding these talks are part of a process. He says many of the bilateral discussions President Bush holds with European leaders will help them prepare for the G-8 summit in July in Japan.

"What you are going to see is working to advance the ball on a range of issues, looking toward forums where formal decisions will actually be taken, such as the G-8 forum," he said.

Experts in trans-Atlantic relations agree no dramatic announcements are likely, particularly at the U.S.-EU summit, where the prime minister of Slovenia will represent all the EU member nations.

Reginald Dale of the Center for Security and International Studies in Washington notes these annual summits are not known for taking bold action. But he says they show the Bush White House recognizes the importance of the European Union.

"In his first term, the president was criticized for just dealing with capitals and trying to play one off against the other and neglecting the European Union," he said. "He started his second term with a highly symbolic visit - the first he made abroad - to Europe and he went to the [European] Commission - the executive body of the European Union - in Brussels. And he was the first [US] president ever to step inside that building."

The president will spend one day in Slovenia before he travels to Berlin, Rome, the Vatican, Paris, London and Belfast. He will arrive in the United Kingdom just days after Irish voters cast ballots in a crucial referendum on European Union reform.

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