Bush to visit Kosovo troops
ROME, Italy -- U.S. President George W. Bush will travel to Kosovo on Tuesday to visit U.S. troops stationed in the troubled province.
Bush will complete his six-day European visit by visiting Camp Bondsteel near Pristina, where some 5,000 U.S. troops serving with the NATO-led KFOR force are stationed.
U.N. and KFOR commanders are expected to brief him before he addresses the troops on the camp's parade grounds and dines with them.
The KFOR base is around 40 kilometres (25 miles) southeast of Pristina, capital of the southern Yugoslav province which is currently under U.N. administration after the Kosovo war of 1999.
Bush also plans to meet Hans Haekkerrup, the U.N. administrator of Kosovo, for talks on progress in solving the province's problems, The Associated Press reported.
Amid questions over whether Bush would pull U.S. troops out of the Balkans, he has assured Europeans that the United States will continue to work side by side with international peacekeepers where needed.
During his visit to Rome on Monday, Bush said during a news conference that he has assured Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi: "America came into the Balkans with our friends, and we will leave with our friends."
The U.S. president received strong backing from Berlusconi over his plans to develop a missile defence shield. The Italian premier said other European governments should also recognise the importance of the national missile defence (NMD) proposal.
He urged Russia to support the plan, saying he agreed that there was a need for new responses to military threats facing the United States, Europe and even Russia required new responses.
He said: "We will always be next to the United States in order to take part in this discussion, going well beyond the attitudes of certain European states which still today have not in my opinion understood how the world has changed and how we should start worrying about the future."
Bush has met with resistance from America's other European allies and Russia and China over the proposals, which opponents say would threaten the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty.
The two leaders earlier lunched privately at a palazzo in the Villa Doria Pamphili park in Rome.
Bush had earlier met Pope John Paul II and he said he would take the pope's rejection of stem cell research using embryos into consideration when he decides whether to allow funding for the controversial practice.
"He's sent a consistent word throughout the Church, and throughout society, that we ought to take into account the preciousness of life," Bush said at the press conference with Berlusconi.
John Paul II had addressed the issue of stem cell research using embryos at a press conference after the 35-minute meeting with Bush at the pontiff's summer home, Castel Gandolfo, south of the Italian capital
"A free and virtuous society which America aspires to be must reject practices that devalue and violate human life at any stage of conception until natural death," the pope said.
"In defending the right to life ... America can show the world ... (that) man remains the master not the product of his technology."
Bush in turn expressed his admiration for the pontiff. "Where there is oppression you speak of human rights, where there is poverty you speak of justice and hope," he said.
"Where there is ancient hatred, you defend and display a tolerance that reaches beyond every boundary of race and nation and belief."
Later, at the press conference with Berlusconi, Bush said that John Paul had not raised stem cell research during their private session, but had instead focused on foreign policy and Bush's meeting on Sunday with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But he added that his decision on whether to grant federal funding for embryonic stem cell research is the most difficult choice he has to make, because of the dilemma between moral issues of creating human embryos to produce stem cells and the promise from doctors and scientists the research will save human lives.
He expressed his respect for the pope's stand, saying: "I frankly do not care what the political polls say. I do care about the opinions of people, particularly someone as profound as the Holy Father."
The trip to Rome was the third stop on Bush's tour following a visit to London and his visit to the G8 summit in Genoa, Italy. He is accompanied by his wife, First Lady Laura Bush, and their daughter Barbara, 19.
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