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Bush Visits Europe To Revisit War

This Aug. 2009 photo shows Russell Seager teaching at Bryant & Stratton College in Milwaukee. Seager was one of the victims in the shootings at Fort Hood on Nov. 5, 2009. (AP Photo/WUWM)
AP Photo/WUWM
President Bush left Friday on a foreign trip on which he'll thank Poland for supporting the Iraq war and meet face-to-face with the man who led efforts to prevent it — French President Jacques Chirac.

During the 14th foreign trip of his presidency, CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller reports, Mr. Bush will visit six nations.

After a stop in Poland, Mr. Bush will visit Russia before heading to the French alpine town of Evian for an economic summit with leaders of other industrialized democracies.

The president will leave the summit early to go to Egypt for a meeting with Arab leaders and on to Jordan for three-way Middle East peace talks with Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers.

In a wide-ranging, 45-minute interview Thursday with reporters at the White House, Mr. Bush said he hasn't quite forgiven France for trying to block the war in Iraq, but says he won't let that get in the way of efforts to fight terrorism, AIDS, and famine and to improve world trade.

He also repeated his defense of the war. Pounding his forefinger on a table top for emphasis, Mr. Bush said: "We've discovered weapons manufacturing facilities that were condemned by the United Nations — biological laboratories, described by our secretary of state to the whole world, that were not supposed to be there."

On Mideast issues, Mr. Bush said longtime Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was a man "who had a chance to lead and didn't."

Mr. Bush insists the U.S. won't allow the peace effort to be sidelined by any terrorist attacks on Israel. He says what he describes as the "evil designs" of a few people won't stop the peace process, reports CBS News White House Correspondent Peter Maer.

Mr. Bush also said he envisions a robust role for a reformed and modernized NATO, and a stronger United Nations whose effectiveness, he said, is currently undermined "when they say something and nothing happens."

Mr. Bush has charged that the United Nations risked being irrelevant by not forcing Saddam Hussein to comply with U.N. orders to dispose of weapons of mass destruction. Critics say the U.S. decision to go to war without explicit U.N. backing was even more detrimental to the world body.

The president's meetings in France will include his first encounter with Chirac since he staunchly opposed the U.S.-led military action against Saddam. The president said he looked forward to working with Chirac.

"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," Mr. Bush said.

But he had this postscript for the French:

"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," he said. "And the French leadership has got work to do to convince the American people that they are concerned about the security of our country."

The need for international cooperation despite rifts over the war is a theme Mr. Bush said he will strike in a speech in Krakow, Poland, in discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg and again at the Group of Eight meeting in Evian.

He told the journalists, seated across from him at a long table in the Roosevelt room, that the press corps likely would ask questions at the G-8 summit about whether there are trans-Atlantic confrontations left over from the war.

"The answer is absolutely not," he said. "It's an opportunity to talk with some who agreed with us on Iraq and some who didn't about how we move forward. And I've laid the groundwork for the trip by talking about some great goals that wealthy nations can achieve."

On Mr. Bush's list: eradicating AIDS in Africa; bolstering trade so people can rise out of poverty; fighting famine; and stamping out terrorism.

The president said he'll ask Arab leaders at a meeting in Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt, to plug sources of money that finance terrorist plots. He said he'd also ask Arab nations, if a peace accord is reached, to provide money to help the economy of a new Palestinian state grow.

"A hopeful Palestinian state will require trade and commerce," he said.

In Jordan, Mr. Bush hopes to nudge Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas along a three-stage road designed to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and set up a Palestinian state by 2005.

"I trust the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority when he condemns terror."

Then later, Mr. Bush tried again to sideline Arafat, who this week asserted that he was in charge of negotiations with Israel. The president never met with Arafat.

"The old leader of the Palestinian Authority is somebody who had a chance to lead and didn't," Mr. Bush said. "He has been in power a long time and the life of the Palestinian people has gotten worse, not better."

Also Friday, anti-G-8 protesters warmed up in Geneva with a demonstration at the offices of the World Trade Center. About 100 demonstrators broke through the main gates. Later, some threw stones at another location.

Reporters saw heated arguments between the militant protesters and those opposed to violence.

With Evian sealed off by tight French security, up to 300,000 people are expected to take part in a series of protests in neighboring Switzerland.

The activists claim the international trade body — like the Group of Eight — is part of a global system that exploits the poor and the environment for the benefit of wealthy nations and corporations. International institutions, political leaders and corporate executives need to held more accountable, they say.