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International Journalists Discuss President Bush’s Trip to Europe

Reaction among European officials and media analysts to President Bush’s first post-election trip overseas was generally upbeat. In the first Bush term, relations between the United States and its traditional European allies were strained, especially over Washington’s approach to Iraq and the Middle East.

On VOA News Now’s International Press Club, host Judith Latham garners reaction to the President’s recent visit from French, German and Russian journalists.

Pierre Rousselin, foreign editor in Paris of Le Figaro daily newspaper, said the French were pleasantly surprised with the language the American president used to show that he was prepared to work with Europe on most issues. But, some people in France said it was “almost too good to be true” and they wanted to wait to see if the Bush administration would follow through. Mr. Rousselin said it was particularly encouraging that Washington appears to be revising its tough stance on Iran’s nuclear program and that it was perhaps a “sign” that President Bush was taking seriously what the Europeans told him during his trip. This perception is reinforced by concrete cooperation now taking place between Washington and Paris on defusing the political crisis in Lebanon.

But Matthias Rueb, Washington bureau chief of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, said the response in Germany to President Bush’s visit was more skeptical and that many German politicians and journalists regard his remarks as “window dressing.” Furthermore, the broader public thinks his rhetoric represents a change in style but not in substance. Nonetheless, the majority of Germans agree it is better to have a cordial relationship than what Mr. Rueb calls a “dialogue of the deaf.” He also said the American president has more to do to assure Europeans that he is “on their side” in the controversy over Iran and specifically that Washington should offer the Iranians some incentives to convince them to give up their nuclear arms program.

Dmitri Siderov, Washington bureau chief of Kommersant, a business and political daily in Moscow, shares Mr. Rueb’s skepticism about the value of the European trip. But he described the official press reaction in Russia to last week’s meeting between President Bush and President Putin in Slovakia as “quite cheerful.” Mr. Siderov on the other hand called the meeting “politically uneventful.” And he added that there was no need for the two presidents to go to Bratislava when they could have “discussed the issues over the phone.” Mr. Siderov said their news conference during which they failed to address the two major issues – Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran and the unfortunate state of human rights and democracy in Russia itself – showed that the two leaders were glossing over the real differences between them.

To listen to all of the comments, click on the audio link above.