Tue, Jun 10, 2008 - Page 7 News List

US leader hopes to drum up support on Afghanistan, Iran

AFP , WASHINGTON

US President George W. Bush headed to Europe yesterday to ask leaders already sizing up his would-be successors for more help for Afghanistan, more pressure on Iran and more cooperation on climate change.

The White House also hopes for progress on boosting trade, but has set low expectations of any major agreements during the trip, which is expected to be Bush’s last major visit to the continent before his term ends in January.

“I don’t think you’re going to see dramatic announcements,” US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters this week.

The US president is scheduled to visit Slovenia for the annual US-Europe summit, then Germany, Italy, the Vatican, France and Britain.

Topping the list are stepping up pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program, securing more aid for war-torn Afghanistan, bringing European allies closer to his climate change views and breaking down US-Europe trade barriers.

“We are taking action ourselves and urging other countries to increase pressure on Iran. We think that’s an element of the solution,” Hadley said.

Britain, France and Germany — backed by China and the US — are preparing a fresh offer of economic and diplomatic incentives for Iran to halt uranium enrichment, Hadley said.

Bush met this week with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and media reports said the visiting leader pushed Washington to plan for a possible strike.

“If Iran continues its nuclear weapons program, we will attack it,” an Israeli deputy prime minister, Shaul Mofaz, was quoted as saying in the Yediot Aharonot daily on Friday.

With an Afghanistan donors’ conference set for Thursday in Paris, Bush hopes to pile pressure on US allies to make good on previous aid pledges.

The trip comes with US allies already wondering whether they might get a better deal from Bush’s successor.

On climate change, that is a “misimpression,” and delaying now would be “a political miscalculation,” the US deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs, Dan Price, said on Thursday.

“It is highly unlikely that any future administration would be prepared to sign a new climate treaty that did not include binding commitments from the major emerging economies, such as China and India,” he said.

Hadley said Bush will push for greater cooperation with his “major economies process,” an approach that critics call a US effort to dodge existing international frameworks for combating the problem and postpone action.

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