- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 1, 2003

KRAKOW, Poland — President Bush yesterday challenged European leaders to engage worldwide problems from terrorism to famine and urged the continent to “show resolve and foresight to act beyond Europe.”

After a brief visit to Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp where 1.5 million died, the president said the world faces a similar evil today from international terrorists who murder innocent people.

“The death camps still bear witness. They remind us that evil is real and must be called by name and must be opposed. All the good that has come to this continent — all the progress, the prosperity, the peace — came because beyond the barbed wire there were people willing to take up arms against evil,” Mr. Bush told several hundred Poles gathered in the courtyard of Wavel Castle.

“And history asks more than memory, because hatred and aggression and murderous ambitions are still alive in the world. Having seen the works of evil firsthand on this continent, we must never lose the courage to oppose it everywhere,” Mr. Bush added.

The president’s visit to Poland is the first leg of a trip that includes Russia for a meeting today with President Vladimir Putin.

The topic of Iran was expected to be on the agenda in the meeting between Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin. Moscow’s lucrative contract with Tehran to help build a light water nuclear power reactor in southern Iran has been a source of U.S.-Russian friction.

Mr. Bush will then head to Evian, France, for the annual Group of Eight summit of major industrial democracies. The president then departs tomorrow for the Middle East, where he will meet with Arab leaders, as well as the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers.

While urging European leaders — several of whom opposed the U.S.-led war to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein — to more fully engage the world’s problems, Mr. Bush said the U.S.-European alliance must remain strong.

“New theories of rivalry should not be permitted to undermine the great principles and obligations that we share. The enemies of freedom have always preferred a divided alliance — because when Europe and America are united, no problem and no enemy can stand against us,” the president said.

“This is a time for all of us to unite in the defense of liberty and to step up to the shared duties of free nations. This is no time to stir up divisions in a great alliance,” Mr. Bush said.

Yet Mr. Bush was clear that the United States reserves its right to act in its national interest, even if that means the use of military force — such as the recent campaign in Iraq.

“Some challenges of terrorism, however, cannot be met with law enforcement alone. They must be met with direct military action,” he said.

While seeking to put an end to reports of a growing rift between Mr. Bush and European leaders, the president took the leaders to task for failing to commit money and energy to the battles facing the world, imploring them to summon up the “will … to meet the challenges of our time.”

“America and European countries have been called to confront the threat of global terror,” Mr. Bush said. “Each nation has faced difficult decisions about the use of military force to keep the peace. We have seen unity and common purpose. We have also seen debate — some of it healthy, some of it divisive.”

European leaders “must show resolve and foresight to act beyond Europe,” he said.

As the president urged European leaders to be more decisive in confronting global terrorism, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said yesterday in an interview with a French newspaper that Washington is still angry over France’s staunch opposition to the U.S.-led war to oust Saddam, according to reports by Agence France-Presse. She called France’s stance “particularly disappointing.”

“There were times when it appeared that American power was seen to be more dangerous than Saddam Hussein. I’ll just put it very bluntly. We just didn’t understand it,” Miss Rice said, as quoted by Le Monde newspaper.

She stressed that the United States and France remained allies but that the American people could not understand why liberating Iraq was not a valid reason for war.

Miss Rice also expressed incomprehension at remonstrations that French President Jacques Chirac made to Central and Eastern European countries when they publicly announced their support for military intervention in Iraq.

“We also thought we had a common understanding that there was no conflict between a European identity and a trans-Atlantic identity,” she said.

“So we could not quite understand why the Eastern Europeans were told to behave themselves, that they shouldn’t somehow choose to support the United States, it would somehow undermine their European identity,” Miss Rice said.

The president yesterday also urged European leaders not to punish fellow nations that supported the Iraq war, including Poland, which defied France and Germany by backing the United States.

“You have not come all this way — through occupations and tyranny and brave uprisings — only to be told that you must now choose between Europe and America. Poland is a good citizen of Europe, and Poland is a close friend of America, and there is no conflict between the two,” Mr. Bush said, drawing applause.

Looking to put the bitter dispute of the Iraq war behind them, Mr. Bush said the United States and Europe share the same fate and wield such power that no problem should be insurmountable.

“Today our alliance faces a new enemy: a lethal combination of terror groups, outlaw states seeking weapons of mass destruction and an ideology of power and domination that targets the innocent and justifies any crime,” he said.

Mr. Bush also said that world crises such as HIV/AIDS, famine and poverty can be eradicated through a combined U.S.-European effort. He urged Europe to match the $15 billion U.S. commitment to fight AIDS and suggested leaders adopt a new funding strategy to battle world hunger.

“Terrorism is often bred in failing states, so we must help nations in crisis to build a civil society of free institutions. The ideology of terror takes hold in an atmosphere of resentment and hopelessness, so we must help men and women around the world to build lives of purpose and dignity,” the president said.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Bush visited Auschwitz and another nearby Nazi camp, Berkenau, where hundreds of thousands were slaughtered.

From Poland, Mr. Bush flew to Russia to join leaders of dozens of nations — France and Germany among them — at a celebration of the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg. Russia also opposed the Iraq war but has made efforts to mend relations with Washington.

In Russia, Mr. Bush joined Mr. Putin and other world leaders at the grandiose Peterhof palace outside St. Petersburg for a dinner served by waiters in period costume.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin will meet privately today and hold a joint news conference before departing to Evian, France, for the annual summit of major industrialized nations.

The G-8 summit meeting in France runs through Tuesday, but Mr. Bush will cut short his stay and depart for the Middle East tomorrow.

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