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Talks With Putin Cap Bush European Trip

For most of us, a schedule like the one George W. Bush had this week would cause a major case of jet lag: travel to three countries in five days for a round of talks with European leaders in Belgium and Germany, topped off by a meeting in Slovakia with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Reporters have described Mr. Bush’s trip as one of fence mending. Since the President’s re-election, the Bush Administration has sought to ease some strain with its European allies over the war in Iraq.

The first stop on Mr. Bush’s tour was Brussels where he took part in back to back summits with leaders of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance and the European Union. NATO members agreed to help provide training for Iraqi security forces. EU nations were asked to put greater pressure on Iran to curb its development of nuclear weapons.

While in Belgium, the President met with French President Jacques Chirac. France has been strongly critical of the U.S. led invasion of Iraq.

On Wednesday, Mr. Bush was off to Mainz, Germany for a one-on-one meeting with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Again, a primary subject was Iran’s nuclear program: Mr. Bush said, “Iran must not have a nuclear weapon for the sake of security and peace. They must not have a nuclear weapon and that is a goal shared by Germany, France, and Great Britain and the United States.”

Not everyone was happy to see Mr. Bush. An estimated crowd of 7,000 demonstrators, representing a number of environmentalist and anti-globalization groups, carried signs criticizing the American presence in Iraq.

The final leg of Mr. Bush’s trip was to Slovakia for a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During Mr. Bush’s first term in the White House, there had been a strong personal friendship between the two leaders. Now the relationship between the two countries is showing signs of tension. Analysts say authoritarian steps taken by the Mr. Putin may test whether Russia will become a close ally of the United States.