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Bush holds talks with Chirac

Bush and Chirac at a joint press conference in Paris
Bush and Chirac at a joint press conference in Paris  

PARIS, France -- U.S. President George W. Bush is in Paris where he has praised France as a "decisive ally" in the anti-terror effort.

Bush arrived in the French capital on Sunday amid tight security during his talks with President Jacques Chirac.

At a joint press conference the two leaders said they discussed Bush's desire to expand the war on terrorism beyond Afghanistan.

Chirac urged other nations to maintain a commitment to the effort.

"Terrorism still exists," Chirac said. "Therefore, all leaders around the world must pay attention to this issue and be determined to eradicate terrorism."

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The two presidents also discussed Bush's visit this weekend to Russia, and burgeoning links between Russia and NATO that will be formalised in a document to be signed this week in Italy.

"On Tuesday in Rome, we will have an opportunity to set in stone this change in the relationship," Chirac said.

Referring to the fight against terrorism, Chirac said, "This fight for liberty is a constant fight, a fight that we all engage in, a fight that is a bond between the peoples on both sides of the Atlantic."

He added: "We have a similar understanding of what is being done and what should be done to fight and eradicate terrorism.

"We both know that terrorism still exists, that it can be active anywhere at any time, and that, therefore, all of the leaders across the world must pay great attention to this issue and be determined to eradicate terrorism."

Bush also urged Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf to "show results" by stopping potential terrorists from entering India-controlled Kashmir and expressed concern about Pakistan's ballistic missile testing.

"We expressed deep concern and will continue to express concern about testing," Bush said.

"I'm more concerned about making sure that, insisting -- along with other world leaders, including the president of France -- that President Musharraf show results in terms of stopping people from crossing the Line of Control, stopping terrorism."

As the leaders met, about 5,000 people marched through central Paris to protest against Bush's two-day visit to France and denounce American domestic and foreign policy.

Marchers shouted "Bush, you are the terrorist" as they walked from the landmark Place de la Republique to the Bastille, where they burned American flags.

Up to 5,000 anti-Bush protesters gathered in Paris
Up to 5,000 anti-Bush protesters gathered in Paris  

"Bush, Chirac: You are the terrorists," said one banner at the protest organised by 30 different groups, including the Green Party, partners in France's last government.

"Bush, Blair, Sharon: the axis of evil," ran another, in a play on Bush's description of Iran, Iraq and North Korea as part of an "axis of evil."

Earlier, several dozen death penalty opponents gathered near a replica of the Statue of Liberty in Paris to denounce Bush's support for capital punishment.

Michel Taube, head of France's "Together Against the Death Penalty" Association, said the protest was a message to "tell the United States to abolish the death penalty, as European countries have done."

Chirac dismissed the protests against Bush as "marginal" and said they did not represent a widespread feeling of antipathy toward the United States or its president.

"Relations between Europe and the United States are not only a very old, not only essential to the world equilibrium, but I would say, in reality, becoming more and more important," he said.

There was also a protest in Caen, Normandy, where Bush will travel on Monday to honour the U.S. troops who died there during World War II.

Of his visit to Normandy, Bush said: "Memorial Day, in my country, is a day to honor those who have sacrificed for freedom, given their lives.

"Many died in France and I'm looking forward to the moment to share our country's appreciation."

Bush will travel to Italy late on Monday and will attend a NATO summit at an airbase near Rome on Tuesday.

Bush has already visited Germany and Russia, where he signed a landmark nuclear arms reduction treaty with President Vladimir Putin.

He travelled to France from St Petersburg where he and his wife, Laura, spent most of the weekend with Putin.

On Sunday morning, Bush attended church services at the Russian Orthodox Kazan Cathedral, which was turned into the Museum of Atheism during the Soviet days.

Afterward, he met Jewish leaders at Choral Synagogue and was to tour the Russian Museum.

Putin bids farewell to Bush on Sunday
Putin bids farewell to Bush on Sunday  

"One of my strong beliefs is that people should be free to worship, and I'm pleased that is taking place in Russia," Bush said outside Grand Choral Synagogue.

"It is important for this country that religious freedom flourish and that there be tolerance for all faiths."

Avraham Berkowitz, executive director of Jewish Communities, said: "President Bush's coming here today is a statement that even though he's here to discuss nuclear arms reduction, he also believes protecting the rights of minorities is paramount in democracy."


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