- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 31, 2003

KRAKOW, Poland — President Bush, still miffed at the French and other “old Europe” nations that opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq, said yesterday that he is prepared to bury the hatchet and urge European leaders to join the fight against terrorism.

Arriving in Poland at the start of a weeklong trip that culminates in Jordan with a Middle East peace summit, the president said his meeting tomorrow at the Group of Eight economic summit in Evian, France, with French President Jacques Chirac will not be confrontational.

“Absolutely not. [The G-8 meeting is] an opportunity to talk with some who agreed with us on Iraq and some who didn’t about how we move forward,” he said.

Still, reverberations from France’s role in opposing the war, which included soliciting other countries to reject Mr. Bush’s policy on Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, were clear in the president’s comments yesterday to foreign journalists.

“There is a sense of frustration and disappointment amongst the American people toward the French decision,” he said. “That’s realistic. People didn’t understand the decisions by the French leadership to thwart the American desire, and the desire of others, to work on security and freedom — security for our countries and freedom in Iraq.

“I’ve got work to do to convince the skeptics in France that the intentions of the United States are positive. And the French leadership has got work to do to convince the American people that they are concerned about the security of our country.”

Mr. Bush said nothing upon landing in Poland last night after an eight-hour flight from Andrews Air Force Base aboard Air Force One.

While he preached reconciliation, Mr. Bush’s brief stop in Poland is a clear reward for that nation’s strong support on the war in Iraq.

“I think it’s very important for the Polish people to understand how deeply Americans appreciate their sacrifice and their courage and their willingness to work with us in Iraq and in Afghanistan,” he said.

And the president warned other nations not to snub Poland for its pro-U.S. stance.

“I think it’s unfortunate that some of the countries in Europe will try to bully Poland for standing up for what you think — what they think is right. And I’m going to say in my speech, Poland needs to be in the [European Union] and Poland can be a friend of the United States, and the two are not in conflict,” Mr. Bush said.

After his Polish stop, Mr. Bush will travel to St. Petersburg, Russia, for a bilateral meeting with President Vladimir Putin, who also opposed the war in Iraq, then go to the Evian conference, and thereafter to the Middle East.

While in Poland, Mr. Bush will deliver his only speech of the trip at Wawel Palace — an 11th-century castle on the banks of the Vistula River in Poland’s third-largest city. The speech will lay out the broad goals of joint U.S. and European interests and urge foreign leaders to join in future efforts to thwart terrorists at every turn.

“It’s a speech, really, to Europe that says that our common values are strong and that we welcome the emergence of countries like — free countries like Poland, and as well as we must be reminded of the lessons of the past,” Mr. Bush said.

His 15-hour stay in Poland also will include a stop at Auschwitz and Birkenau, two World War II concentration camps 50 miles west of Krakow, where Germans killed more than 1.5 million people, 90 percent of them Jewish.

“I’m also going to Auschwitz to remind people that we must confront evil when we find it, and there’s no better place to remind people that there has been evil in the world than at Auschwitz,” Mr. Bush said.

The European leg of the trip is being watched for signs of a thaw between the United States and nations that opposed the war. But before departing on the trip, the White House announced the president would cut short his stay in France by one day, missing a dinner thrown by Mr. Chirac, as well as the reading of the final statement by G-8 leaders.

At the economic conference in Evian, on the banks of Lake Geneva, Mr. Bush will not meet with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a foe of the U.S.-led war.

Besides the leaders of the United States, France, Germany and Russia, the G-8 summit will be attended by Prime Ministers Tony Blair of Britain, Jean Chretien of Canada, Junichiro Koizumi of Japan and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy.

But Mr. Bush’s message to the French leader will look forward, not backward.

“I think that the time has moved beyond us where there was recriminations or disagreements about previous issues,” he said. “My decision is to go and to say to the French government: Let us work together for a Europe which is whole, free and at peace.”

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell told reporters aboard Air Force One that the United States is prepared to forgive — but not completely forget.

“That’s not to say we don’t have bad blood with our closest friends and partners, but you move on,” he said. “Let’s talk about the future.”

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