- The Washington Times - Friday, January 21, 2005

PARIS — The French and governments throughout Western Europe gave a positive, if low key, welcome to President Bush at the beginning of his second term yesterday.

In Norway, the president’s “Hook ‘em, ‘horns” salute got lost in translation, where shocked people interpreted the hand gesture during his inauguration as a salute to Satan.

The European Union gave perhaps the most upbeat assessment of Mr. Bush’s inauguration speech as a good omen for recently troubled trans-Atlantic ties.

“We welcome the indication that he has given of the willingness of the Bush administration to have a strengthened relationship with the EU. We are happy to note that,” European Commission spokeswoman Francoise Le Bail told reporters.

“The fact that President Bush will be making his first trip abroad in the second term in office to Europe and Brussels is a sign of the importance that the administration wants to give to relations with the EU,” she added. Mr. Bush is to visit Brussels next month.

In his speech Thursday, Mr. Bush vowed to rely on the advice of his foreign partners during his second term in office, saying he honored their friendship.

Pundits throughout Europe pointed out that there was no escape from the fact that the United States — and not Europe — was the only power capable of achieving a breakthrough in the Middle East.

“The Arab world is not wrong in believing that Washington, by persuasion or pressure, can be heard in Israel, which is not the case of the Europeans,” said Francois Heisbourg, head of the Institute of Strategic Studies and of the Center for Politics and Security in Geneva.

Diplomats pointed to a number of pre-inaugural statements that indicated France was prepared to listen to U.S. foreign policy views rather than condemning them in advance as was occasionally the case.

Mr. Bush’s inauguration speech received a predictably frosty welcome in the Arab world, where Osama bin Laden and his terrorist followers are widely revered by the masses.

Muslims performing a ritual at the hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia pretended they were throwing stones at the American president instead of the devil.

The former Soviet republic of Belarus, accused in the West of human rights abuses, said Mr. Bush’s call to expand freedom was “soaked in blood and smelling of oil.”

Addressing his National Security Council yesterday, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said: “It appears that they are prepared to offer something to the entire world. … Suppose someone or other didn’t really want such freedom, soaked in blood and smelling of oil?”

Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice this week listed Belarus among several “outposts of tyranny.”

The “Hook ‘em, ‘horns” hand gesture, a sign of support for the University of Texas Longhorns, shocked some Norwegians where the raised right hand with extended pinky and index fingers is a popular gesture among heavy metal bands.

“Shock greeting from Bush daughter,” a headline in the Norwegian Internet newspaper Nettavisen said above a photograph of Mr. Bush’s daughter Jenna, smiling and showing the sign.

Norway’s largest newspaper, Verdens Gang, explained to its readers that Mr. Bush and his family made the sign to greet the Longhorn marching band as it passed during the inaugural parade through Washington during Thursday’s festivities.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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