Fri, May 24, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Bush tries to assuage Germany

AP AND REUTERS , BERLIN

US President George W. Bush adjusts his translation ear-piece at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

Calling Saddam Hussein "a threat to civilization itself," US President George W. Bush assured German leaders yesterday that he does not seek war with Iraq but does want help keeping the Iraqi leader from forging alliances with al-Qaeda and other terror groups.

Bush said he told German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of his desire to expand the war against international terror beyond Afghanistan. He said he assured Schroeder, "I have no war plans on my desk," but wishes to use every means available to deal with Saddam.

"He knows my position and the world knows my position about Saddam Hussein. He's a dangerous man," Bush said. "It's dangerous to think of a scenario where a country like Iraq would link up with an al-Qaeda-type organization. ... It's a threat to civilization itself."

Speaking before the Bundestag, Germany's parliament, Bush also made the case for a more aggressive war against terrorism, saying the threat "cannot be appeased and it cannot be ignored." Bush drew some jeers from those who opposed a wider anti-terror campaign, but he was loudly applauded when he saluted "a Europe that is whole and free and at peace for its first time in history."

Against the backdrop of big anti-American protests over policies, Bush warned that the US and its 18 fellow NATO members were vulnerable to more attacks like those of Sept. 11.

"In this war we defend not just America or Europe. We are defending civilization itself," he told the Bundestag. "If we ignore this threat we invite certain blackmail and place millions of our citizens in great danger."

Several people in the Bundestag raised a banner reading "Mr. Bush, Mr. Schroeder, stop your war," as the US president spoke and a brief uproar ensued in the chamber as officials snatched it away.

Bush is under fire in Europe over what many view as US unilateralism on key issues. Washington has pulled out of the Kyoto global warming treaty and abandoned a pact setting up an international criminal court.

European allies are also concerned about hefty US tariffs on steel imports and US policy on the Middle East.

Bush gave no ground on any of those issues, calling the trade disputes a small part of "our vast trading relationship" and saying "wishful thinking" might bring comfort but not security in the face of terrorist threats.

In a nod to German skepticism of his hard line on Iraq, Bush also said at a news conference that Germany has "shouldered a significant burden" in the overall fight against terrorism, "and we're very grateful for that."

Bush also appealed for Germany's help in exerting diplomatic pressure on Iraq to keep Saddam from developing destructive weapons -- a threat he said is likely.

"I know some would play like they're not real. I'm telling you they're real," Bush said of the threats.

He said he advocates action against Iraq because, "I don't want to be in a position where we look back and they say, `Why didn't they lead? Where were they when it came to our basic freedom?'"

Hours before traveling to Moscow for a three-day visit, Bush also bluntly warned Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop providing weapons technology to Iran. "If you arm Iran, you're liable to have the weapons pointed at you," Bush said.

He said he planned to tell Putin to handle Iran with caution, and to express US worries that Iran may someday be capable of arming deadly missiles. "That's going to be a problem for all of us, including Russia," Bush said.

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