June 21, 2006
Bush tries to strengthen EU resolve on Iran
By William Schomberg
VIENNA (Reuters) - President Bush began talks with European
leaders on Wednesday at which he will urge his allies to keep
pressure on Iran over its nuclear program, but he faced
complaints over trade issues.
Ties between the United States and the European Union are
improving, but EU leaders cautioned before the Vienna talks
that Bush seems heavy-handed on security and said global trade
talks would die without further concessions from Washington.
Bush has not regained the full confidence of Europeans
since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which many people in Europe
From the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba to strict
U.S. visa requirements, Europeans say Washington is still
showing too little consideration toward its transatlantic
Bush met Austrian President Heinz Fischer, whose country
holds the rotating EU presidency until the end of June, and was
due later to see European Commission President Jose Manuel
Barroso and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
Before the U.S.-EU summit began, Barroso issued a new
appeal to Bush to take a less hardline approach to security.
"We risk losing our souls," he told the International
Herald Tribune (IHT) newspaper.
"We are committed to the fight against terrorism. But if we
suppress civil rights and civil liberties because we are
fighting terrorists, that would be a victory for the
terrorists," he said, referring also to reports of collusion by
EU governments in alleged CIA abductions of terror suspects.
In a gesture toward the EU, the United States appeared
ready to sign a summit declaration with a reference to respect
for human rights in the fight against terrorism.
The two sides will vow to "ensure that measures taken to
combat terrorism comply fully with our international
obligations, including human rights," said a draft version of
the declaration, which was obtained by Reuters.
IRAN, TRADE, VISAS
Bush was expected to underline that the United States and
Europe must not ease up on Iran and should ensure that the
threat of punishment such as sanctions remains real.
The West suspects Tehran's nuclear program is a front for
developing atomic weapons. Iran, which is the world's fourth
largest oil exporter and has the second largest oil and gas
reserves, says its program is only for civilian purposes.
Washington has said it will join European talks with Tehran
that are conditional on Iran giving up uranium enrichment -- a
step in the production of nuclear weapons -- in return for an
offer of trade and technology incentives.
"If Iran does not accept this offer then we return to the
U.N. Security Council. That's all part of the way forward,"
White House national security adviser Stephen Hadley said.
Bush could face new pressure at the summit to close the
prison camp at Guantanamo Bay which holds about 460 foreigners.
The summit gave the EU and Washington a chance to discuss
differences blocking a new World Trade Organization (WTO)
The EU says the onus is on the United States to go further
with cuts to subsidies for its farmers after Brussels showed it
was ready to enhance its proposals for cutting import tariffs
on farm goods as part of the WTO's Doha round.
"There will be no Doha agreement if others do not move,"
Barroso told the IHT. "If our American partners think it's the
end of the road, then there will not be a successful round."
U.S. officials have dismissed the signals of an improved
agricultural offer from the EU as mere sweeteners to proposals
that fall far short of its demands.