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Bush to Visit International Leaders

Aired May 30, 2003 - 19:05   ET


DARYN KAGAN, ANCHOR: Right now let's go ahead and turn to some diplomatic news.
President Bush says it's time to talk about the future. Mending fences with Europe and the future of the Middle East were on his agenda today as the president began a seven-day international mission.

The president is starting tonight with a stop in Poland, which supported the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Then he goes on to Russia and France, which did not.

Next it's on to the Mideast. After meeting with Arab leaders from Egypt, he'll move on to Jordan for discussions for discussions with Israeli and Palestinian leaders about the U.S.-backed road map to peace.

His final stop is Qatar where the U.S. Central Command led the war against Saddam Hussein. Our senior White House correspondent, John King, is traveling with the president. We asked him to give us a preview of the trip.


JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is the president's first overseas trip since the war in Iraq and his diplomatic skills will be put to the test, both here in Europe and in the Middle East in the very dramatic week ahead.

Mr. Bush begins in Europe, here in Poland, friendly territory. He is here to say thank you for Poland's decision to not only stand with him in the war with Iraq but also to send a modest number of troops to join the U.S. and coalition forces in the fighting.

Mr. Bush, though, while here, will also have quite a sober moment, touring the Auschwitz and Buchenwald (ph) Nazi death camps. Mr. Bush says it is a reminder to him of the urgency of immediately confronting evil and how the United States and the allies should work together to confront evil, not bicker as they did in the case of Iraq.

Mr. Bush, at later stops in Russia and France, will encounter the three leaders who most forcefully fought him when it came to the war in Iraq: the chancellor of Germany, the president of Russia and the president of France. The president insists he is not here to re-fight the fight, although he did say on Polish television that he will remember his friends.

One thing Mr. Bush is doing is forcefully rebutting those in France and Germany and elsewhere who are questioning whether his war in Iraq was legitimate. In those capitals, some say because the United States has not found major evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, that the war was illegitimate.

Mr. Bush says two mobile biological weapons laboratories have been found and he predicts even more evidence will be found in the weeks and months ahead.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs, to build biological weapons. They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions and we've so far discovered two.

And we'll find more weapons as time goes on, but for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them.


KING: From Europe, it is off to the Middle East, first for a meeting with key Arab leaders and then a dramatic three-way summit, President Bush hosting Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel, Prime minister Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian authority, to urge them to take the early steps on the so-called road map for peace.

The White House says do not expect any dramatic breakthroughs, but the president does believe a fragile momentum has been generated over the past week or so. His goal is to keep that momentum going.

And when Mr. Bush leaves the region, officials say he will leave behind the team of U.S. diplomats to stay in the region indefinitely, to monitor, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the Israelis and the Palestinians to see if they keep their pledges to Mr. Bush to try to implement the Middle East peace road map.

John King, CNN, Krakow, Poland.


KAGAN: Well, it is safe to say the president has an ambitious diplomatic schedule over the next seven days. Can he really make a difference? Can he put the past differences between the nations behind him?

We've asked "TIME" magazine editor-at-large Michael Elliott to help us read the diplomatic tea leaves and there will be a lot of drama going on over the next week or so.

MICHAEL ELLIOTT, "TIME" EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Sure. It's going to be a really busy week.

KAGAN: Let's go ahead and start in Poland. This is the place that President Bush has chosen to make his keynote address. Of all the places he's going... ELLIOTT: They love Poland.

KAGAN: And Poland loves him.

ELLIOTT: They love Poland. They love Poland.

KAGAN: But is this a slap in the face of, perhaps, some of the other countries that he's going to be visiting, that this is where he's choosing to make the speech?

ELLIOTT: Well, to an extent. I mean, the administration, as John said in his report, the administration has always been very keen on Poland. Poland backed the war in Iraq. The Polish government is very, very pro-American.

This is the second speech that President Bush has given in Poland in two years and it is -- you know, it's a little big to the French and the Germans, it's reminding them that there's another big country to the east of Europe that's friendly to the United States. So it has symbolism.

KAGAN: Let's move on to the site of the G-8 summit. Evian, France, president staying one day, saying, "I've got to move on to other things. I don't really mean this as a slight but I'll just be stopping in."

ELLIOTT: Well, you know, boys will be boys and I guess he's trying to send a message. But it is quite important. It's not important in terms of what comes out of it, in terms of a declaration, in terms of an agenda.

KAGAN: It's the pictures we're going to see.

ELLIOTT: Exactly. The pictures, the atmospherics, the chumminess is really important because I think everyone understands that the rich democracies, that's us and western Europe, should work together to ameliorate the ills of the world. And everyone understands in this administration and, I think, in Western Europe that everyone's going to kind of get behind the kind of back biting and snippiness of the Iraq war.

Now, it won't be easy to do that and President Bush is obviously going to make it plain to the French and the Germans that he wasn't very pleased with what went on earlier this year, but I think there is a determination to get over it.

KAGAN: We'll talk about something that's not easy. This is the Middle East conflict. Something that President Bush never seemed destined to get in the middle of, kind of left that to the Clinton administration. Yet, there he'll be in Jordan, meeting with the two prime ministers. What can possibly come out of this meeting?

ELLIOTT: Well, the Middle East thing is of a completely different order from everything that goes before. I mean, this is really difficult and it's really important and it's really new for the Bush administration. Because in the past President Bush just kind of tried to fly at 30,000 feet from a lot of the world's issues. He's got involved with them in Washington. He's not dived into a situation like he's going to do.

KAGAN: This is head first.

ELLIOTT: This is going to be head first, he's going to be meeting with Arab leaders and then he's going to be meeting with Abu Mazen from the Palestinian authority and Ariel Sharon from Israel.

And this is really putting his personal credibility and the status of the office of the American president on the line in negotiations, just like President Clinton did all those times. And of course, Republicans criticized President Clinton, as John King said, for diving in in that way.

President Bush and the administration, I think, have realized that the only way that you're going to knock heads together in the Middle East is if you knock heads together. And so he's going to go there and really show that he is determined to pushing the road map forward. But boy, this is serious stuff and really difficult.

KAGAN: It will be fascinating to watch over the week. Michael Elliott from "TIME" Magazine. Thank you for your insight, appreciate that.


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