On Europe trip, Bush focuses on missile defense, global warming
LONDON (AP) – President Bush, on his second trip to Europe in a month, said he would not shy away from his stances on missile defense, global warming and other issues dividing the United States and its allies. ”People will know where we stand,” he said. ”Some will like it, and some won’t.”
Bush was unsympathetic, too, toward thousands of protesters massing for a summit of the world’s seven wealthiest nations, plus Russia, beginning Friday in Italy. ”Those who try to disrupt and destroy and hurt are really defeating … their cause, it seems like to me,” Bush told foreign journalists.
”I think a lot of people in the world are just kind of sick of it.”
U.S. officials, meanwhile, predicted an agreement later in the week between the United States and developing nations on genetically modified crops. European leaders oppose the new technology championed by the United States.
The president and his wife, Laura, stepped off Air Force One to a chilly, gray day Wednesday at a military airfield outside of London. They were accompanied by one of their 19-year-old twin daughters, Barbara. Aides said the Bushes’ other daughter, Jenna, stayed home because of a summer job.
Heavy cloud cover prevented the first family from taking a helicopter into town, forcing them into a nearly two-hour motorcade ride.
Bush made London the first stop of his six-day visit to Europe, his second trip there as president. He was having lunch with Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday and meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair before heading on to Italy for the economic summit.
Blair spokesman Godric Smith said the two leaders would discuss, among other issues, Bush’s plan for a missile defense system and his rejection of the Kyoto protocol on climate change, which Britain supports, along with the European Union.
”I don’t think there’s any point in pretending that we have agreement on the issue,” Smith said. ”The prime minister will underline once again to President Bush that for the U.K. and the E.U., this is a significant issue.”
In an interview Tuesday that was released by the White House on Wednesday, Bush said he has tried to explain to allies that the Kyoto pact would have set emissions reduction standards that the United States ”was unable to withstand.” He said he would again seek to assure them that the United States will develop a responsible alternative.
”Some leaders were more sympathetic than others, I must confess,” Bush said. ”Nevertheless, I do believe that people appreciated the frank assessment. And I believe they’re going to appreciate the strategy that we lay out over time to help meet the needs.”
-Acknowledged that a strong U.S. dollar creates ”benefits and problems for us.” The Clinton administration steadfastly endorsed a strong dollar against European currencies. Bush, in a variation from that policy, said a strong dollar helps attract capital to the United States but it also makes it harder for American exporters to sell their products overseas.
The dollar is outpacing the currencies of the nation’s meeting at the Genoa, Italy, summit.
-Said the Northern Ireland peace process was at a ”critical stage” and urged both sides to disarm.
-Played down the new alliance between Russia and China, two countries opposed to Bush’s missile defense plans. ”I can understand nations that share a larger border wanting to work on a friendship agreement,” he said. ”It makes sense to me.”
Administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they expected developing nations to join with the U.S. at the Italy summit in favor of genetically modified crops. Europe refuses to accept the crops, but the U.S. argues that the technology would boost production, particularly in food-starved developing nations.
Bush was in Europe less than a month ago to attend NATO and European Union summits and meet, for the first time, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Bush expected to see Putin again at the Group of Eight meeting, along with the leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Canada and Italy.
Security was stringent in the venue for this week’s summit, the bustling Italian port city of Genoa.
The president said he was eager to talk missile defenses with Blair – and in coming days with Putin – so he can better explain ”the philosophy behind my attitudes” that developing a missile shield, while shedding agreements reached during the Cold War with the former Soviet Union, is good and necessary.
Promising frank discussions, Bush said, ”I will just tell people what I think. I will represent my government in a way that is forthright, transparent. People will know where we stand. And some will like it, and some won’t like it.”
During the rest of the week, Bush holds a separate meeting with Pope John Paul II. He will also fly to Kosovo to share lunch with U.S. peacekeeping troops before returning to Washington.
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