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Bush in Europe to Talk Security with Allies

President Bush is in Brussels for talks with NATO and European Union leaders, and bilateral meetings with some of the toughest critics of his decision to invade Iraq.

The president has big goals for this trip: to repair relationships frayed by the Iraq conflict, and build a trans-Atlantic consensus on a number of issues, including Iran and Syria.

Before the hectic schedule of meetings begins, Mr. Bush plans to set the tone for this European journey with a speech from Brussels to the people of Europe. He is expected to include some of the themes of his inaugural address, most notably his belief in the power of freedom.

Before leaving Washington, the president told Belgian television it is time for Europe and the United States to leave their differences behind, and focus on ways to build a legacy of peace and freedom for future generations.

In that interview - and those conducted with reporters from France, Germany, Russia, and the Slovak Republic - President Bush stressed the need to help Iraq as it builds a functioning democracy. He also spoke of the importance of taking a common stand against Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Tehran insists its nuclear program is designed for peaceful purposes, while the United States questions why an oil-rich nation would need nuclear energy.

Mr. Bush also plans a number of one-on-one meetings with individual European leaders during his trip, including some of the biggest critics of his Iraq policy. He will hold a private dinner Monday with French President Jacques Chirac in Brussels, and will go to Mainz, Germany, for talks Wednesday with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

President Bush will remain in Germany for about 10 hours before traveling to Slovakia. He will use the stop in Bratislava to honor the young democracies of Eastern and Central Europe, and to discuss the future with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Bush is expected to bring up some of the concerns raised by human-rights groups about recent government decisions in Moscow. But all indications are any criticism will be delivered behind closed doors, and not in a public forum.

Last Friday, President Bush told a group of European reporters that Mr. Putin has made some decisions that warrant discussion, but in a very private way.