Europe Hopes for New Relationship with US During Bush Second Term



European governments are hoping for a new relationship with the United States during President Bush's second term and say trans-Atlantic ties will be closely linked to what Washington does to advance peace between Israelis and Palestinians. As Europeans reconcile themselves to four more years of the Bush presidency, they are emphasizing that relations should be based on mutual respect.

No one in London, Paris or Berlin believes the trans-Atlantic alliance can go back to what it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. But one theme that crops up in conversations with European diplomats is that, although the United States may be the world's only superpower, it is not omnipotent and cannot fix the world's problems on its own terms.

That message has been stressed recently by Michel Barnier, the foreign minister of France, a country whose ties with the United States have not been particularly warm since Paris opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Mr. Barnier has been calling for U.S.-European relations to be put on a new footing, one in which each side of the Atlantic listens to what the other has to say. There are just too many challenges in the world, he says, and the United States cannot face them alone.

"We can't face them effectively, Europeans and Americans apart," said Michel Barnier. "We are already together and we need to be together on these challenges. But we have to be together in the broader sense and, probably, in what I call a new trans-Atlantic relationship and getting the habit to talk more to each other, even when we don't agree."

Mr. Barnier says France and the rest of Europe want to put the arguments with Washington over Iraq behind them. European diplomats say that it is in everybody's interest to sort out what one calls "the huge mess in Iraq". The issue, they say, is whether an inevitable retreat from Iraq leaves behind a passably stable Iraqi state or civil war.

European governments are hoping that President Bush will invest more time on the Middle East peace process. One top official at the European Union says he hopes a president who does not have to think about re-election and is probably thinking about his place in history will adopt a more even-handed and less pro-Israel stance when tackling the Middle east conflict.

Mr. Bush is scheduled to visit Europe next month in what U.S. diplomats say is a gesture meant to show sensitivity to Europe's concerns.

French foreign minister Barnier says both Europeans and Americans should try to reach out to each other.

"A new relationship means that we respect each other and that we listen to each other," he said. "We are allies. Alliance is not submission, and we can disagree on certain subjects."

Even when Iraq is put aside, there are other flash points ahead in U.S.-European relations. One of them is the European Union's expected decision to lift its ban on weapons sales to China. Washington fears those weapons could be used in a conflict over Taiwan. But the Europeans say they cannot continue to treat China like a pariah state, on the same level with Burma and Zimbabwe.

The other potential problem is Iran. The United States has taken a hard line toward Iran's nuclear ambitions. The Europeans are trying diplomacy and economic leverage to wean the Iranians away from their intention to enrich uranium.

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