Bush opens four-nation European tour

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Associated Press WriterBERLIN (AP) -- President Bush, opening a four-nation trip, told America's allies Wednesday "we've got to be tough" in the battle against terrorism. Thousands of demonstrators massed in central Berlin against the U.S.-led war as the president arrived.

Bush stepped off Air Force One onto a red-carpet lined by white-jacketed military troops. Despite the gathering of demonstrators, small groups of friendly people watched and waved from streets as Bush's motorcade took him to a cafe near the Brandenberg Gate for coffee with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. A huge pro-American covering showing the White House was draped over the landmark.

More than 10,000 police were deployed in a tight security screen throughout Berlin. The area around Bush's hotel was sealed off for blocks.

Bush sought to counter European doubts about the war.

"Even though we've had some initial successes, there's still danger for countries which embrace freedom, countries such as ours, or Germany, France, Russia or Italy," Bush said as he departed the White House. "As an alliance, we must continue to fight against global terror. We've got to be tough."

Secretary of State Colin Powell emphasized that Germany and the United States have been working closely together on the Afghan campaign, as well as in the Balkans.

"This is a trip in which we can celebrate all of the cooperative efforts we've been involved in as well as talk about other issues like trade, where there are disagreements, but disagreements that we can work to resolve," Powell said. He said Bush and Schroeder would talk about Iraq in the context of nations seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Bush is to address the German Parliament Thursday, seeking continued cooperation against terrorism. "I know America can't win the war on terror alone," he told the German TV station ARD.

The high point of the trip is expected to be the signing of a treaty in Moscow on Friday to slash U.S. and Russian nuclear arms. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the agreement is "fully ready for signing" by Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But a stark reminder of European skepticism awaited Bush. Some 100 protests were planned across Germany on Wednesday and Thursday to coincide with his visit. Police said they were anticipating 15,000 protesters in Berlin.

On Tuesday, Bush spoke to reporters at the White House about the trip.

Looking across a table in the Roosevelt Room at reporters from all four countries, Bush told them he surveys a threat-assessment report each morning, and added: "I am confident that I've read threats that were directed to the countries represented here."

"The best way to secure our homeland, the best way for Italy to be secure, and other countries, is to find these killers, is to hunt for them, is to chase them down," Bush later told Italy's RAI television.

Throughout the sessions with European journalists, Bush molded his answers to fit his message on terrorism.

Asked whether the U.S.-European relationship was healthy, Bush said fighting terror "is a common cause that is a powerful force that unites us."

Asked about the future of NATO, Bush said the war on terror requires just such a "collection of freedom-loving countries."

His view of Russia? "We want Russia, our partner now in fighting terrorism, to have the means to continue the fight."

Bush's trip comes at a time when some Europeans are showing signs of skepticism and impatience with the terror war. After the Sept. 11 attacks on New York City and Washington, some 200,000 Berliners gathered at the Berlin Wall to show solidarity with the United States. Many wore shirts or held signs proclaiming "We are all New Yorkers," adopting the phrase of John F. Kennedy's 1963 "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a Berliner) speech in support of then West Berlin, an outpost surrounded by communist East Germany.

But in the first major demonstration Tuesday in Berlin, protesters carried placards that read "Pretzels instead of bombs" and "War is terror -- stop the global Bush fire." The U.S. Embassy in Berlin sent out a message to Americans in Germany cautioning them about the demonstrations.

Bush told Germany's ARD that Iraq -- a prime candidate for any expansion of America's war -- is a menace to them.

"Iraq ought to be on the minds of the German people, and they ought to be on the minds of the American people, because the Iraq government is a dangerous government," he said.

"This is a government that's gassed its own people, this is a government that is not transparent, and this is a government we know wants to develop weapons of mass destruction," Bush said. "They may have weapons of mass destruction; we just don't know."

He emphasized he has "no military plans on my desk that calls for, that plots out a military operation. I'm looking at all options."

Bush also sought to soften his image among some Europeans as a go-it-alone leader with a distaste for alliances that are inconvenient to him.

"Listen, I believe in alliances," Bush said. He used the word "collective" five times in two interviews.

Bush likened his plainspoken style to former President Reagan's demand to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev that he tear down the Berlin Wall. "He didn't say tear down a couple of bricks. He said tear the whole thing down," Bush said. "And I guess I tend to speak that way, too."

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