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Bush Works to Mend Relationship with NATO

President Bush has dismissed the idea that the United States has plans for attacking Iran to keep its government from developing nuclear arms. Speaking in Brussels after talks with top European leaders on Tuesday, Mr. Bush said blocking Iran's development of nuclear weapons remains a goal for both the U.S. and the European Union. The president's remarks came on the same day he attended a summit at the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance.

The president's comment on Iran came during a joint news conference with Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

"This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is ridiculous," said President Bush.

The meetings in Brussels are taking place under tight security. About a thousand anti-U.S. demonstrators were met by squadrons of police armed with riot gear and water cannons.

President Bush had a friendlier reception from NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer during an earlier meeting of the 26-nation military alliance.

"The atmosphere was excellent, and that was the way it should be, because what binds us are the values - we'll discuss them, we'll have differences of opinion, yes, from time to time - but there is a lot more we agree upon and that is the bottom line," Mr. Scheffer said.

The secretary-general invited the president to attend the summit following Mr. Bush's re-election victory in November. At their joint appearance the president acknowledged that tensions in the alliance, resulting from disagreements about the war in Iraq, were at the center of the discussions.

But, he said, "The key now is to put that behind us and to focus on helping the new democracy succeed. It's in your country's interest, it's in my country's interest that democracy take hold in the greater Middle East."

And in that area, the president said, the outlook is hopeful.

"Twenty-six nations sitting around that table said it's important for NATO to be involved in Iraq," he said. "That's a strong statement, and NATO is involved in Iraq, and NATO is doing a vital mission which is to help an officer corps emerge"

"It was an excellent summit - it was an excellent idea of the president to come here, to have this summit here and now, because there is a daunting and challenging task and a daunting and challenging agenda waiting for NATO," said Mr. Scheffer.

"All in all the meeting was really important, I'm really glad I came. It gave me a chance to say that the relationship between the United States and Europe is a vital relationship, a necessary relationship, an important relationship, and our relationship within NATO is the cornerstone of that relationship," President Bush said. "You know after all NATO is the most successful alliance in the history of the world. Think about that - the most successful alliance in the history of the world."

Mr. Bush meets Wednesday in Germany with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Slovakia on Thursday.