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President Bush Lands In Belgium

Aired February 20, 2005 - 15:00   ET


ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon, I'm Andrea Koppel at CNN Center in Atlanta. As you can see there on your screen, Air Force One, the president's plane, has now touched down in Brussels, Belgium at the start of a five day, three-country swing through Europe, where the president is going to try to improve relations with European leaders. Something that was begun by his secretary of state and his secretary of defense a couple of weeks ago and now that the president is into his second term in office, he wants to put behind him what he views as the animosity of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and start a new chapter in transatlantic relations. European leaders are open to this, as well. That is not to say that there are not some sore spots that are likely to come up over the next five days, including of course the European Union's plans to lift their arms embargo that's been in place in China since 1989 and of course what to do about Iran's suspected nuclear program.
Among many leaders, President Bush will be meeting with: President Jacques Chirac of France and Russian president Vladimir Putin who will be traveling to Slovakia to meet with Mr. Bush. You can expect some fireworks there, of course. The Russians, in recent days, had said they refused to say that Iran has a suspected nuclear program and they're going to move forward with their plans to help Iran develop their nuclear power plant at Bushir. You can also expect some fireworks on the president's side as he pushes President Putin on what U.S. sees as backsliding on democracy. So you see there, a group of officials waiting to welcome Mr. Bush, welcome to -- ready to start a new -- a new page in this transatlantic relationship.

President Bush will be traveling to Belgium. He's going to be touching down on the tarmac there in a couple of minutes, but he'll also move on, as I said, to Slovakia as well as to Mainz, Germany, over the course of five days. The European's side, you're not going to hear any European leaders publicly criticize the United States. They are eager to try to put forward the best face in the relationship. You can expect the tough words to take place behind the scenes, and if Condoleezza Rice's trip to Europe was any indication, certainly the atmosphere and the mood of this trip will be one that's very positive. Expect the tough questions really to come from the journalists, both in Europe and those traveling with Mr. Bush, who will be pressing these leaders to see if they can find daylight between the sides.

President Bush is arriving with his wife. This is not their first trip to Europe, but it is certainly one that is eagerly awaited by both sides of the Atlantic. There had been lots of meetings, diplomats traveling to the United States, foreign leaders traveling to the United States, laying the ground work for this visit, to make sure that everything goes as planned. These trips, for the most part, are precooked. They know the issues that they'll be discussing and the theme of this visit. Very much you'll hear reporters talking about this over the next five days, is putting aside the animosity of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and trying to find common ground.

Among the things President Bush will be looking for to see if he can get European help in training Iraqi police and security forces, something the Europeans have indicated they are willing to do, in fact, the Germans have already begun to do this in the United Arab Emirates, but really the goal is to get NATO to do this inside Iraq, in fact during Condoleezza rice's trip to Europe the week before last. You had the new head of NATO say that this was something he anticipated all 26 members would have something to offer up during Mr. Bush's visit to NATO headquarters there in Brussels that whether they're offering up trainers or whether they're offering up money, they would at least in some symbolic way be participating in trying to bring security and eventually a peaceful transition and handover from international troops led by the United States and Great Britain to Iraqi forces on the ground. This is something that is a high priority for Great Britain and also for Italy and other European countries including the United States, who have thousands of troops in Iraq right now, trying to keep the peace.

A high priority for the Bush administration is to try to bring U.S. forces home, although the president and Donald Rumsfeld refusing to put a deadline on when the United States would bring its troops out.

In addition, the U.S. is also going to be -- the president is also going to be looking for common ground on Afghanistan. You have NATO forces that are already on the ground there, and they're going to be expanding their mission outside of Kabul into both the western and the southern parts of Afghanistan. You've got some of the president's staff now coming down the staircase there, as they wait and prepare for President Bush and Laura Bush to make their appearance at the doorway there for the start of their five-day visit.

During his trip, President Bush is going to be meeting with just about every major European leader. Of course one of his close -- closest partners in the war in Iraq has been Britain's Tony Blair, but he will also be meeting with the Italian Prime Minister Silvia Berlusconi who was ill when Secretary Rice visited Italy.

And I believe that is the president now and Laura Bush make their way down the staircase there -- but Berlusconi was ill while Secretary Rice was in Rome, just a couple of weeks ago. He had the flu, as did Pope John Paul II, so Secretary Rice met with the foreign minister instead. But President Bush is expected to meet with his close ally Mr. Berlusconi.

He's also going to be meeting with others who have not exactly had the warmest of relations with President Bush and they include German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and the French president, Jacques Chirac. When Condoleezza Rice was in Europe, Jacques Chirac made a point of kissing her hands a couple of times, calling her "Dear Condi." Gerhard Schroeder was also treating her with incredible warmth during their press conference in Berlin.

President Bush is going to be meeting with all of these lead leaders before he moves on to his other two stops including, as I said, Slovenia where he'll be meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Tonight, my understanding is that President Bush is just going to be heading back to the American embassy. He doesn't have any official appointments on his agenda; remember they're six hours ahead there in Belgium, so it's about 9:15 in the evening. President Bush doesn't have anything official on his calendar, but he will begin his official meetings on Monday morning, bright and early, there in Brussels, Belgium. With stops at both NATO headquarters and at the European Union. I am Andrea Koppel in Atlanta. We will have much in are for you on the president's trip in the 4:00 hour, here on CNN. Now back to "In the Money."


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