Europe Keen to Leave Tensions in the Past (WASHINGTON POST) By Glenn Kessler and Robin Wright 02/02/05 Page A15)
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As newly installed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice begins a week-
long trip to Europe tomorrow, European officials said they are eager
to put the tensions of the past four years behind them, but without
minimizing potential areas of conflict, such as how to handle Iran´s
President Bush thrilled Europeans by deciding that both he and Rice
would make their first post-inaugural overseas trips to Europe --
carefully choreographed acts designed to show an interest in
repairing a transatlantic breach over Iraq, the Middle East peace
process, global warming and other issues. Europeans said conditions
are ripe for a rapprochement, particularly now that the elections in
Iraq appear to have gone smoothly and the death of Palestinian leader
Yasser Arafat has given new impetus to peacemaking between Israelis
"We´re not in the business of fighting last year´s war," a senior
German official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because
of the sensitivity of U.S.-European relations. "There really is a
mood of positive expectations."
Nevertheless, Europeans say they await Rice´s visit with more than a
little nervousness, especially because some disputes will not be
easily resolved. U.S. officials are fuming that the European Union is
about to lift an arms embargo imposed on China after the 1989
Tiananmen Square crackdown, though European officials stress that
they will impose a code of conduct on exports. Rice told the Agence
France-Presse and Reuters news services yesterday in an interview
that lifting the embargo would "send the wrong signal about human
On Iran, some Europeans are frustrated because they believe their
efforts to restrain Iran´s nuclear program through diplomacy will
fail without U.S. involvement -- and the Bush administration has not
budged from its position that it will not join in any talks.
"It is not some sort of cozy discussion. It is very serious," John
Bruton, the European Commission´s ambassador in Washington, told
reporters over lunch yesterday. "It is important that if you want the
Iranians to truly get to the bottom line, there has to be a sense
that there is a U.S. ´buy-in´ " to any final deal.
Vice President Cheney´s recent statement that Israel might feel
compelled to attack Iran´s nuclear facilities received wide publicity
in Europe and alarmed European officials, adding to U.S.-European
tensions over the issue. But British officials disagree with some
European officials, saying that talk of huge divisions on Iran are
overblown. "Europeans will always try and push for the maximum line
on U.S. engagement," one British official said.
In a whirlwind seven days, Rice will travel to London, Berlin,
Warsaw, Ankara, Jerusalem and the West Bank, Rome, Paris, Brussels
and Luxembourg City. She will also meet with Russian Foreign Minister
Sergei V. Lavrov in Ankara, Turkey.
The issues will vary from stop to stop -- the Poles want to discuss
assisting the new Ukraine government, while the Turks are worried
that the Iraqi Kurds are receiving too much deference -- but in every
stop Rice and European officials will also try to narrow differences
over issues of regional interest.
Rice´s one-day stop in Israel is designed to demonstrate renewed U.S.
engagement in the peace process. In the first term, Europeans
complained that the administration did not pay enough attention to
Rice also plans to give a major speech and to take questions from the
audience in Paris, the center of European opposition to the invasion
of Iraq. In the speech, she plans to say that Europeans and Americans
have common values and that it would be best to work together to
advance common interests, such as global democracy.
In France, Germany and Britain, she will meet in closed session with
leading academics and intellectuals.
British officials say Prime Minister Tony Blair secured an agreement
from Bush after the November elections to schedule an early visit to
Europe to repair relations, and Rice´s trip is intended to lay the
groundwork for the president´s visit later this month. She will meet
with the head of government in virtually every country.
"She will be greeted as a rising star in the sky of Washington, a
confidante of President Bush and a woman of great power and
influence," a European ambassador said.
Still, there is little indication that Rice plans to offer any
significant policy changes, European and American officials said. "We
are in a moment of growing convergence on a number of issues," the
ambassador said. "The substance has not changed; the positions are
the same as a few months ago. But the style and circumstances have
Two previous flashpoints -- Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian peace
process -- provide the greatest possibilities for closer
coordination, European officials said. A number of key European
allies have begun to withdraw troops from Iraq, though during
Cheney´s visit to Poland last week, the Poles agreed to withdraw only
700 troops and defer a decision on the remaining 1,700. But the
administration has chosen not to make an issue of the departures, and
Bush in his statement Sunday on the Iraqi elections pointedly praised
the assistance of the European Union.
Simon Serfaty, senior adviser to the Center for Strategic and
International Studies´ European program, said the Europeans are open
to helping on Iraq but need a better sense of the U.S. strategy. "The
Europeans will be willing and able to respond to some of the new
missions, on reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Iraqi state and
training forces outside of Iraq," he said. "But they need a sense of
the endgame. It´s not different from the debate in Washington: How
does Bush envision the exit? Under what conditions?"
Rice told the news services not to expect any major shift on Iraq
from Europeans who opposed the war. But she said there is a "steady
evolution of help to the Iraqis," noting that Europeans have agreed
to forgive much of Iraq´s debt and Germany has trained Iraqi police.
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