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Bush faces protests on Europe trip

Jose Maria Aznar
President Bush speaks with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar on Tuesday, marking his first European visit as president.  


MADRID, Spain (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush has arrived in Madrid on his first official visit to Europe since taking office.

He is facing international criticism on the issues of global warming and his plans for a national missile defence system.

Bush's plane touched down shortly before 9:25 a.m. local time (0725 GMT).

The president and first lady Laura Bush were greeted by a few Spanish dignitaries, then headed to Zarzuela Palace to meet with King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia.

Bush is due to meet Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar at Aznar's ranch later on Tuesday.

Hours before departing for his six-day, five-nation tour, Bush promised increased environmental research and commitment from the United States in response to the goals set up by the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.

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"Kyoto is in many ways unrealistic," Bush said in the White House Rose Garden. "Many countries cannot meet their Kyoto targets. The targets themselves were arbitrary and not based upon science.

"For America, complying with those mandates would have a negative economic impact with layoffs of workers and price increases for consumers."

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton signed the Kyoto Protocol, but also said he would not submit it to the U.S. Senate for ratification until several changes were made.

Many European allies are angry at Bush for his opposition to the accord and have expressed scepticism about his plans to deal with global warming.

There have been protests in Madrid against the Bush administration's environmental policies. Three protests have been held since Sunday.

"We want to tell him that he is not welcome here if he keeps with his policy to reject the Kyoto Protocol, the first and only international agreement against climate change," said one demonstrator representing Greenpeace.

Before he left, Bush promised his administration would fully fund high-priority areas for scientific research into climate change over the next five years, and help developing nations match the U.S. commitment.

Following his trip to Spain, the president was scheduled to visit Belgium, Sweden, Poland and Slovenia, where he will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. Along the way he will take part in his first group interaction with leaders of the European Union and the NATO alliance.

Bush plans to return to Europe later this summer for the annual meeting of the Group of Eight nations in Genoa, Italy.







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