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Iraq Power Transfer Expected to Top Agenda in Bush Europe Talks - 2004-06-25

President Bush is in Europe for talks with NATO leaders and European Union officials, expected to focus on next week's handover of power in Iraq.

The president's first stop is Ireland where he will meet with European Union officials on expanding trade and fighting terrorism.

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice says Mr. Bush will be following up talks earlier this month at the G8 summit in Georgia on efforts to spread democracy in the Middle East and Iraq.

"The president intends, at the EU-U.S. summit, to continue to demonstrate the strength of our relationship with the European Union, including discussions that have now been going on for a number of years on countering terrorism, combating the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and spreading prosperity through open and free trade," she said.

After Ireland, it is on to Turkey where Ms. Rice says the president looks forward to strengthening a strategic partnership with a leading secular democracy in the Muslim world. He will meet with political and religious leaders along with a visit to the mausoleum of the country's first president, Kemal Ataturk.

On Monday, Mr. Bush attends a NATO summit in Istanbul where Ms. Rice says he will call on leaders to help train Iraqi security forces as part of what she calls an alliance mission to spread peace and freedom throughout the world.

"He'll discuss ways that the alliance can help in the current period to deal with the threats of the 21st century, of course, first and foremost, in Afghanistan, where NATO has had a very important role and is in the process of force generation to make certain that role can be fully fulfilled,' Ms. Rice said. "And he will also discuss what NATO can do to help the Iraqis in their quest for stability."

Coming just days before the handover of power in Iraq July 1, President Bush will use the NATO summit to try and rally support for the new transitional government.

He faced some resistance at the G8 summit to a greater NATO role in Iraq, with French President Jacques Chirac questioning how Iraqis would respond to that intervention. France and Germany have refused to send troops to Iraq, where soldiers from 15 NATO members are already serving in the U.S.-led coalition.

While in Istanbul, President Bush will meet separately with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, take part in the NATO-Ukraine Commission and speak at Galatasaray University.