U.S. tries to move past Iraq

Posted: Sunday, May 18, 2003

WASHINGTON The Bush administration is mending fences with some allies opposed to the Iraq war, but the reconciliation process is far from evenhanded.

''Punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia,'' the president's national security adviser is widely quoted as telling associates.

Analysts say Condoleezza Rice's sentiment summarizes the administration's stance especially if you add that pro-war countries such as Poland, Spain and Bulgaria are to be richly rewarded.

Tensions will be high when President Bush and the leaders of Russia, France, Germany, Japan, Britain, Italy and Canada meet early next month at an economic summit in Evian, France.

It is unlikely they will find much common ground, other than agreeing to redouble efforts to combat international terrorism following last week's bombings in Saudi Arabia.

Deep divisions remain over rebuilding Iraq and the future role and relevance of basic institutions such as the United Nations and NATO.

Bush also will use the trip to reward coalition partners.

Even before a White House announcement, President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland disclosed that Bush planned to visit the Polish city of Krakow on May 30.

Poland was among Washington's strongest war supporters and is preparing to take command of one of Iraq's three postwar zones. The United States and Britain would control the others.

In addition to Poland, Bush will make other thank-you stops, perhaps including a friendly Persian Gulf nation such as Qatar or Kuwait.

The healing process seems to be working best with Russia, despite differences over the war and Moscow's aid to Iran's nuclear program. Bush needs Russian President Vladimir Putin's help in combating terrorism and weapons proliferation. He also hopes Moscow will play a role, along with China, in defusing the North Korean nuclear standoff.

Bush will visit Putin in the Russian's hometown of St. Petersburg en route to the economic summit, and will participate in that city's 300-year anniversary celebration. Bush and Putin spoke by phone on Friday morning.

''Of course, we have had a lot of argument recently concerning the Iraq problem, but we have successfully overcome those differences,'' Putin told reporters last week during a visit by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

In another sign of thawing U.S.-Russia relations, Russia's lower house, the Duma, last week ratified a landmark nuclear-disarmament agreement with Washington that cuts arsenals by two-thirds. The U.S. Senate ratified the pact in March.

The Bush administration is trying to patch things up with Turkey as well, even though the Turkish parliament blocked Pentagon plans for a northern Iraqi front.

Turkey is viewed as important to stability in the region and is the only NATO member in the Middle East. U.S. officials also see it as an example for the world that democracy and Islam can exist side by side.

Bush continues to give a cold shoulder to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac, both war opponents. Bush has not talked to Schroeder this year, and had only one brief telephone conversation with Chirac.

But with the war over, Schroeder has sought to be conciliatory, agreeing with the United States about the need to lift U.N. sanctions on Iraq.

''I expect that sanctions will be lifted quickly,'' Schroeder said last week during a Powell visit. ''In the end, this is about the people of Iraq, who must be helped as soon as possible.''

Germany also has increased its role in Afghanistan, where it is training police forces.

Bush has done little to hide his disdain for the German leader, who opposed Bush's Iraq policy in his 2002 re-election campaign. Yet the bad feelings run even deeper for Chirac.

''It's one thing to disagree like the Germans did. It's quite another thing to launch a major diplomatic initiative to oppose us. So France is going to pay a price for that,'' said Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution.

U.S. officials have talked of limiting France's influence in NATO. And Bush has made it clear he wasn't about to invite Chirac to his Texas ranch.

Issues facing leaders at summit of leading industrial powers include Iraqi reconstruction, simmering trade disputes, North Korea's nuclear ambitions, the Middle East peace process and the SARS outbreak.

''This summit should not be seen as an opportunity to penalize anybody, but as a chance to move forward on a very demanding agenda,'' said Lee Hamilton, a former chair of the House International Relations Committee and now director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Last week's terror bombings in Saudi Arabia ''dramatically show how you need the cooperation of people and countries to deal with these problems,'' he said.

Tom Raum has covered Washington for The Associated Press since 1973, including five presidencies.



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