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International Journalists Discuss Condoleezza Rice’s First Overseas Trip as Secretary of State

Members of the international press have generally welcomed the new tone set during Condoleezza Rice’s first overseas trip as Secretary of State. Transatlantic relations deteriorated in the first Bush administration due to differences over the Iraq war, the Kyoto Protocol and the International Criminal Court. But in the aftermath of Secretary Rice’s recent visit, world public opinion appears to be adopting a “wait-and-see” attitude regarding the substance of U.S. foreign policy in a second Bush administration.

Talking with host Judith Latham on VOA News Now’s International Press Club, Matthias Rueb, Washington bureau chief of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, said the response in Germany to Secretary Rice’s recent visit to Europe is one of guarded optimism. According to Mr. Rueb, people there regard the choice of Europe by both Secretary Rice and President Bush as their first destination during his second term as an “important symbol.” However, the sticking points between Americans and Europeans remain – for example, the Kyoto Protocol, the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the arms embargo on China, and the best plan for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program

Philip Jelie, U.S. bureau chief for Le Figaro French newspaper, said that people in France have welcomed the “new tone” that Secretary Rice set, especially in her speech at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris. But, he added, there are still serious questions about the “underlying philosophy” of U.S. foreign policy, especially on Iran. Mr. Jelie said the French are waiting to see how the meeting goes between President Bush and President Chirac next week. But, he added, Americans and Europeans “definitely need one another,” particularly regarding a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Janine Zacharia, Washington correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, said that Israelis were “quite pleased” with Secretary Rice’s visit to Israel during her first trip as Secretary of State. Ms. Zacharia said Ms. Rice did not make any “overt demands” on Israel beyond trying to help the Palestinians as they reform their security services. And, Israelis were pleased by the announcement that Lt. Gen. William Ward had been appointed as her security envoy.

However, Rami Khouri, editor of Beirut’s Daily Star, said that people in the Arab world were far less impressed than elsewhere by Secretary Rice’s visit and her meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. According to Mr. Khouri, the Arabs have become “pretty hardened to reality” and they regarded her statements on the Middle East as neither dramatic nor newsworthy. He said that what is far more important to them is what policies the United States will pursue and that they will be watching that very closely.

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