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Economy to Top Agenda of Bush Meetings in Europe

President Bush says economic matters will take center stage in meetings this week with European leaders. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where the president spoke before departing on a week-long trip that begins in Slovenia.

What is expected to be President Bush's last major trip to Europe comes amid slow U.S. economic growth, skyrocketing energy prices, and a weak dollar.

As he left the White House, Mr. Bush said Americans are understandably concerned about pocketbook issues, and that there are things the United States and Europe can work on together to chart a better future.

"We will remind our friends and allies overseas that we are all too dependent on hydrocarbons," he said. "We must work to advance technologies to help us become less dependent on hydrocarbons."

In addition to encouraging less consumption of fossil fuels, Mr. Bush repeated his call to open an ecologically-sensitive region in Alaska for oil drilling in order to boost U.S. crude supplies.

The president said the United States is committed to a strong dollar, which he said is in America's interests and will benefit the global economy. During the Bush presidency, the U.S. dollar has lost roughly half its value against the euro.

The president said the U.S. economy has continued to grow despite what he termed "unprecedented challenges." He expressed confidence that a stimulus package that includes rebate checks to American taxpayers will help boost U.S. economic performance in the months to come.

Mr. Bush's trip begins with an annual summit of the United States and the European Union in Slovenia. He will also visit Germany, Britain, France, Italy and the Vatican.

Aside from economic matters, Mr. Bush said he will thank European nations for troop commitments and other initiatives in Afghanistan, where he said much work remains to be done.