Sun, Jun 27, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Little joy for Bush at meet with EU officials

SURFACE UNITY The US president was given no big favors on Iraq at the meeting with European officials, even if the words of the Irish prime minister were soothing


US President George W. Bush tried to forge unity over Iraq yesterday in a lightning summit with European leaders who backed the training of Iraqi troops but offered little further concrete support.

Fenced off from his detractors by 2,000 soldiers and 4,000 police, Bush holed up in a western Irish castle with EU leaders ahead of a NATO summit in Turkey this week.

The US hopes a transatlantic agreement over training police in Iraq is proof that old enmities are over, but diplomats fear it may be simply the lowest common denominator the two sides can live with.

Big breakthroughs were scant at the summit as hundreds of demonstrators vilified Bush as a warmonger.

The protesters were kept well away from 16th-century Dromoland Castle as Bush met Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.

Ahern stressed the need for transatlantic unity four days before Washington cedes control of Baghdad to an interim government.

After the bilateral Irish talks, Bush headed to the EU-US summit.

The leaders trumpeted a satellite navigation cooperation agreement as proof of strong ties even as Iraq and the Middle East continue to dog relations.

In the joint US-EU statement, the leaders said they "support the training and equipping of professional Iraqi security forces capable of assuming increasing responsibility for the country's security."

The EU said it would also look at helping the new government prepare for elections and "consider further support for the rule of law and civil administration in Iraq."

In a reference to the US abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, the statement stressed "the need for full respect of the Geneva Conventions," mirroring European disquiet voiced by Ahern earlier over prisoner rights in both Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

NATO leaders, including Bush, meet tomorrow and on Tuesday and are expected to reach an agreement in principle to help train Iraqi security forces, far short of the original US goal of having NATO troops help with security.

Meanwhile, insurgents in Iraq launched attacks in the strife-ridden city of Baquba yesterday, killing nine people, six of them insurgents, US and Iraqi officials said. Attacks also occurred in other cities.

The attacks in Baquba, 55km northeast of Baghdad, occurred only two days after US tanks and jets routed insurgents who assaulted police stations and government offices there as part of a widespread offensive that killed about 100 people nationwide.

Yesterday's attacks targeted offices of two political parties -- one of them run by the Iraqi prime minister -- a police station and a government building in Baquba.

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