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Bush Pushes for Bringing Turkey Into EU - 2004-06-26


While Iraq dominated President Bush's summit with the European Union, there were also discussions on bringing Turkey into the EU, and commitments to expand trade and fight terrorism.

President Bush used a news conference at the end of his meetings with EU leaders to push for Turkey's admission to the 25-nation European alliance.

"Turkey is a proud nation that successfully blends a European identity with Islamic traditions," said President Bush. "As Turkey meets the EU standards for membership, the European Union should begin talks that will lead to full membership for the Republic of Turkey."

Mr. Bush made his remarks shortly before departing for Ankara and a NATO summit in Istanbul.

Another major topic at the U.S.-EU summit was reduction of trade barriers. Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, who currently holds the EU presidency, pointed to the benefits free trade brings to the trans-Atlantic alliance.

"The economic relationship between the European Union and the United States has been a central focus of our discussions today," said Bertie Ahern. "It's a relationship that generates 12 million jobs on both sides of the Atlantic."

President Bush was asked about the Northern Ireland peace process, and whether it could set an example for the Israelis and Palestinians.

"I do view it as a model for resolution of conflict, whether it be in the Middle East or elsewhere," he said. "And we view this issue as a very important issue in my administration, and stand ready to help."

As the president spoke, thousands of anti-Bush protesters marched in Dublin and other Irish cities. Large sections of the European public oppose Mr. Bush, primarily over the Iraq war. A reporter asked the president how he felt about his low popularity in Europe.

"I must confess that the first polls I worry about are those that are going to take place in early November of this year," said president Bush. "Listen, I care about the image of our country. We got a country that has $2.3 trillion worth of trade with the EU. Obviously, something positive's happening. As far as my own personal standing goes, my job is to do my job. I'm going to do it the way I think is necessary. I'm going to set a vision, I will lead, and we'll just let the chips fall where they may."

Irish police carried out their biggest-ever security operation during the Bush visit, with about one-third of the country's officers deployed to protect the summit meeting.

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