- The Washington Times - Monday, April 30, 2007

European leaders - in a change from the past - yesterday sounded positive notes about the Bush administration’s global-warming policy, although clear disagreements remain over how to address the issue.

“There is a common basis. We are aware of the fact that we do have a problem here, that we need to solve this problem,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is also the current president of the European Union.

“There are different approaches, obviously, as to how to solve that. But we have been able, actually, to find a lot of common ground,” said Mrs. Merkel, who met with President Bush at the White House along with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso for the annual U.S.-EU summit.

Mr. Bush, at a press conference in the Rose Garden after the summit, also said that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is ready to engage with her Iranian counterpart on issues related to Iraq, at a meeting with representatives from several Middle Eastern countries later this week in Egypt.

“Should the foreign minister of Iran bump into Condi Rice, Condi won’t be rude. She’s not a rude person. I’m sure she’ll be polite. But she’ll also be firm,” Mr. Bush said. “My hope, of course, is that the foreign minister would see the resolve of our government through Condi to continue to rally the world to convince the Iranians to give up their nuclear-weapons ambitions.”

Mr. Bush said that if the Iranian government wants “a serious conversation” with the U.S., they should stop taking steps toward developing nuclear weapons.

Mr. Bush also said it was Mrs. Merkel’s suggestion that led him to send Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates to Russia last week to talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin about a U.S.-proposed missile-defense system in Europe.

Mr. Putin last week threatened to pull out of a NATO arms treaty, in part because of his displeasure with the missile-defense system.

“Our intention is to say to Russia that this system is something you ought to think about participating in. It’s in your interests to have a system that could prevent a future Iranian regime, for example, from launching a weapon. It’s in Russia’s security interests,” Mr. Bush said.

“We have started a dialogue, as a result of Secretary Gates’ visit, that hopefully will make explicit our intentions, and hopefully present an opportunity to share with the Russians so that they don’t see us as an antagonistic force, but see us as a friendly force,” he said.

On climate change, Mrs. Merkel agreed with Mr. Bush’s insistence that countries such as China should be included in any discussions of curtailing carbon-dioxide emissions, but also said that the U.S. and EU need to take the lead in reducing emissions.

Mr. Barroso, a former Portuguese prime minister, described global warming as “a very serious and global threat.”

Mr. Bush, meanwhile, said that the issue has “global consequences” but offered different reasons for why it needs to be addressed. “I do believe we can be better stewards of the environment, and I know it’s in our national interest to become less dependent on foreign sources of oil,” he said.

Both European leaders agreed that investing in biofuels and in new energy-efficient technologies is a worthy goal.

Global warming will be a key issue at the Group of Eight summit in Germany next month.

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