Bush praises US-Europe ties in Paris speech

June 14th, 2008 - 1:56 am ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Gordon Brown
Paris, June 14 (DPA) US President George W. Bush Friday praised the closeness of US-European ties and called for continued close collaboration in the fight against terrorism and other vital global issues. In the speech, which was delivered shortly after his arrival in Paris, Bush told his audience at the headquarters of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD): “Instead of dwelling on our differences, we are increasingly united in our interests and ideals”.

He went on to praise the leaders with whom he has met with or had yet to meet on his farewell tour of Europe, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

“In leaders like Berlusconi and Brown, Merkel and Sarkozy, I see a commitment to a powerful and purposeful Europe that advances the values of liberty within its borders and beyond,” Bush said.

He listed a number of issues in which he saw the US and Europe playing major roles, such as fighting global warming, in the struggle against HIV/AIDS and the war against terrorism.

“America and Europe are cooperating in the most solemn duty of all, to protect our citizens” from terrorists, he said.

Repeatedly comparing the current geopolitical situation with the Cold War, Bush said that Europe and the US were involved in a “battle of ideas” in which “one side … embraces the fundamental tenets of civilisation” against “men who place no value on life”.

Bush cited Afghanistan and the Middle East as two crucial arenas of this battle.

“In Afghanistan, we must stand with a brave new democracy fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban,” he said. “Our nations must assure that Afghanistan is never again a safe haven for terrorists.”

The US president praised Sarkozy for hosting Thursday’s conference in which donors pledged $21.4 billion to the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan.

Of that total, the US pledged nearly half or $10.2 billion. The announcement was made at the conference by the president’s wife, Laura Bush.

Bush also said that Europeans and Americans “must stand with Palestinians, Israelis and all others who favour a two-state solution” to the long Mideast conflict.

“A peace agreement is possible this year,” Bush declared.

He also called on European nations to support Washington’s efforts in Iraq and its campaign against Iran’s nuclear energy programme.

“We must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon,” he said.

The speech at the OECD was billed as a high point of Bush’s European trip, which has seen him travel to Slovenia, Germany and Italy, with the Paris stop preceding visits to Britain and Northern Ireland.

In his address, Bush also cited the upcoming US elections.

“When the time comes to welcome a new American president next January 1, I will be pleased to report to him that the relationship between the US and Europe is the broadest and most vibrant it has ever been,” he said.

Following the speech, Bush is scheduled to dine with Sarkozy at the Elysee Palace. The two leaders will then sit down for talks early Saturday, before Bush leaves for London, the next leg of his trip.

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