Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Condolezza Rice Urges New Chapter in US-Europe Relations

USA Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on
Tuesday for a new chapter in relations with Europe after
a rift over the Iraq war and began repairing ties with
France, one of the biggest critics of the conflict.

Rice pointedly made the appeal in Paris during an
eight-nation tour, underlining the message that
President Bush wants Europe to be a partner and not a

Calling each other Michel and Condi at a joint news
conference, Rice and French Foreign Minister Michel
Barnier pledged to give U.S.-French relations a new
start and emphasized areas of cooperation rather than

"It is time to turn away from the disagreements of the
past. It is time to open a new chapter in our
relationship and a new chapter in our alliance," Rice
said in a speech to students and academics at Paris's
prestigious Sciences Politiques university.

"America stands ready to work with Europe on our common
agenda and Europe must stand ready to work with
America," said Rice, a former university provost.

She made Paris the venue for the main speech of her tour
to show Europe that the Bush administration has ended an
internal debate about whether to view a united Europe as
a rival or as a partner, a senior U.S. official said.

She chose to make the speech at the university because
it has been at the center of intellectual and political
debate over transatlantic ties.

Rice was greeted by warm applause and, although she
appeared nervous and delivered the speech with little
flair, she did not face a grilling in questions after
the speech.

"When we disagreed, we still disagreed as friends," she
said of relations with France. Later, standing beside
Barnier at their news conference, she said: "When the
United States and France work together there's a great
deal we can achieve."

Trying out his English, which he is brushing up, Barnier
said: "Chere Condi, it's time for a fresh start."

Underlining the desire for reconciliation, French
President Jacques Chirac -- who met Rice but did not
speak to reporters -- is due to meet Bush for dinner in
Brussels on Feb. 21 and will soon visit Washington.

A French government source also said Washington had
agreed to hand over to France its last three citizens
held by U.S. forces at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. This
would remove one obstacle to better ties, but French
officials did not confirm the deal.

Barnier and Rice underlined cooperation in regional
conflicts such as Afghanistan (news - web sites) and
Kosovo before starting talks, and avoided mention of
their differences over Iraq.

Barnier did, however, call for U.S. support in trying to
persuade Iran to give up its nuclear program, which
Washington says is aimed at developing nuclear arms.
Iran denies this.

Rice took a tough line against Iran, saying it must not
be allowed to dictate terms for proving it is meeting
pledges not to produce a nuclear arsenal. A trio of
European countries are holding talks with Iran but
Washington is not taking part.

Rice has chosen mainly to underline shared values with
Europe rather than potentially divisive issues on her
first trip as the top U.S. diplomat.

Earlier on Tuesday, Rice had no difficulty in winning
backing from Italy, a U.S. ally with 3,000 troops in
Iraq -- the fourth largest foreign contingent there
after U.S., British and South Korean forces.

Italy's support has stood in stark contrast to German
and French opposition to the war. But diplomats across
Europe have welcomed U.S. overtures to mend the
partnership, especially after the Jan. 30 election in

They have also praised Rice for leading the renewed U.S.
peacemaking role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Israeli and Palestinian leaders proclaimed a formal
end to bloodshed at a summit in Egypt on Tuesday.

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