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Bush, in Europe, to urge support for Iraq

Will ask allies to help new democracy become 'beacon of freedom'


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President and Mrs. Bush arrive in Brussels, Belgium.
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With olive branch in hand, President Bush arrives in Europe.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush will call on European allies to help Iraq's fledgling democracy become "a beacon of freedom" in the Middle East when he speaks to Belgian leaders Monday, according to excerpts released by the White House.

"Now is the time for the established democracies to give tangible political, economic, and security assistance to the world's newest democracy," Bush says in prepared remarks.

All countries "now have an interest in the success of a free and democratic Iraq, which will fight terror, be a beacon of freedom and be a source of true stability in the region," he says.

The speech is the first major address in a five-day fence-mending journey to Europe. Aides say Bush hopes to convince allies to put the frayed feelings over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq behind them and to assure them that his administration still values the Atlantic alliance.

"The alliance of Europe and North America is the main pillar of our security in a new century. Our robust trade is one of the engines of the world economy," Bush says. "Our example of economic and political freedom gives hope to millions who are weary of poverty and oppression.

"In all these ways, our strong friendship is essential to peace and prosperity across the globe -- and no temporary debate, no passing disagreement of governments, no power on earth will ever divide us."

The president and first lady Laura Bush arrived Sunday evening in Brussels, the headquarters of the NATO alliance. He will meet with fellow NATO leaders and members of the European Council on Tuesday, in addition to having one-on-one meetings with two European leaders who supported his Iraq policy -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Though the itinerary includes just two other countries -- Germany and the Slovak Republic -- Bush is planning to meet with virtually every major political player on the continent, including French President Jacques Chirac, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and the new president of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko.

Aides said Bush is likely to seek support from European leaders not only for Iraq, but for the government of Afghanistan, where NATO troops lead a peacekeeping mission to shore up the country's post-Taliban government, and for efforts toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

What to do about Iran's fledgling nuclear program, and how to approach Syria's continued military presence in Lebanon, are also likely to be on the agenda.

Germany, Britain and France have been negotiating with the Iranians to broker a deal to stop the Iranian nuclear program. France, as the former colonial power in Syria and Lebanon, worked with the United States on a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for the withdrawal of Syrian troops. U.S. also officials have raised objections with Russia over its proposed sale of surface-to-air missiles to Syria.

Bush said last week that he did not know whether Syria was involved in the assassination on Monday of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. But U.S. officials said last week that Syria's presence has created a destabilized situation in Lebanon. (Full story)

Bush's meeting with Putin is to take place in the Slovak Republic, on the last day of the trip. In interviews before the trip, the president made it clear that he planned to gently raise concerns about what U.S. officials see as an erosion of democracy in Russia with Putin.

But U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, warned Sunday that Putin "is on the verge of isolating himself" after his support for the original winner of a discredited Ukrainian election, his own country's turn away from democratic reform and his comments last week that he did not consider Iran a nuclear threat -- a position squarely at odds with the White House.

McCain and Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Connecticut, introduced legislation last week calling on Bush to suspend Russia's membership in the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialized democracies "until the Russian government ends its assault on democracy and political freedom."

While in Germany, Bush is to meet with U.S. troops who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan and to participate in a roundtable discussion with German citizens. And he plans to deliver a speech in the central square of the Slovak capital, Bratislava, in the first visit to that nation by a U.S. president.

In a pre-trip interview Friday with Slovak state television, Bush said his visit there "is going to be one of the highlights of the trip."

"I've always felt like countries like the Slovak Republic are very important for the world to know more about," he said. "Because, as you know, I'm a big believer in liberty, and this is a country which is succeeding."


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