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Europe's leaders to quiz Bush

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President Bush and Spain's Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar at a joint news conference in Madrid  


BRUSSELS, Belgium -- U.S. President George W. Bush arrives in Brussels facing questions about his missile defence plan and his rejection of the Kyoto Treaty on global warming.

He will meet 19 world leaders attending the NATO summit on Wednesday, followed by European Union leaders on Thursday, where the two subjects will be high on both agendas.

Security around Belgium's capital will be high on Wednesday, especially around the U.S. embassy and NATO headquarters, following several protests across Europe aimed at the U.S. policy on the environment and the execution on Monday of Timothy McVeigh.

His European tour began on Tuesday in Madrid where he met Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

After the two leaders' private meeting, Bush urged the Russian government and those across Europe to "think differently in order to keep the peace."

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U.S. President George W. Bush and Spain's Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar share their views on missile defense and global warming

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Prof. Ian Begg, South Bank University: Bush an unknown quantity in Europe

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Bush said: "We must work together to prevent or resolve regional conflicts, to eliminate barriers to free trade, to extend Europe's zone of peace and stability by enlarging the great institutions of European unity and strengthen our ability to meet new challenges to our security.

"I look forward to meeting with Russian President (Vladimir) Putin to set out a new and constructive and realistic relationship between Russia and the United States.

"I'm looking forward to talking to President Putin, to assure him of our friendship and to offer him a strong normal relationship with America."

But Bush's presence in Madrid was met by protests A crowd of about 250 people chanted "Stop Bush" and "Bush go home!" outside the U.S. Embassy as he rested inside.

Others carried banners, with one saying: "The earth is our mother, not your supermarket."

Meanwhile, police in Gothenburg, Sweden, dragged 40 activists from a protest camp near the site of the EU summit that Bush will attend on Thursday.

Swedish police also said they had detained five people suspected of planning sabotage, but declined to say what they were planning or who was to be the target.

In Norway, about 10 Greenpeace activists protesting against Bush's environmental policies boarded a U.S.-bound oil tanker as it loaded oil at a refinery.

Another band of anti-Bush protesters boarded a tanker off La Havre, France on Monday.

In Brussels, hundreds protested outside the U.S. embassy to Belgium.

More than 30 organisations, including the World Wildlife Fund, Oxfam and Amnesty International, demonstrated against everything from Bush's stance on the environment to the death penalty.

Speaking a day after Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed by lethal injection, Bush said the death penalty -- lawful in the U.S. but banned in the EU -- was "not an easy subject for any of us."

"I understand others don't agree with this position," he said. "The democracies in Europe reflect the will of the people of Europe. That doesn't mean we can't be friends. That doesn't mean we can't work in common areas of importance to our people. And that's the spirit in which I come to Europe."

Bush called the Kyoto global warming treaty flawed for failing to include developing nations. This came after the European Union said his response to the problem so far was short on action.

He also argued that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, a bedrock of U.S.-Russian nuclear stability for three decades, had outlived its usefulness.

He said: "The ABM treaty is a relic of the past. It prevents freedom-loving people from exploring the future and that's why we've got to lay it aside, and that's why we've got to have the discussions necessary to explain to our friends and allies as well as Russia that our intent is to make the world more peaceful, not more dangerous."

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Environmental activists demonstrate in front of the U.S. Embassy in Brussels where Bush is due to arrive on Wednesday  

It was his strongest rhetoric to date against the existing treaty in favour of his NMD system of interceptors to protect against incoming missiles from "rogue" states like North Korea and Libya.

Many Europeans are sceptical of the idea, fearing a costly arms race. The ABM treaty bans a missile defence system.

"It prevents freedom-loving people from exploring the future and that's why we've got to lay it aside," Bush said.

He called for discussions "to explain to our friends and allies as well as Russia that our intent is to make the world more peaceful, not more dangerous."

And he said the only way to know if the system will work "is for the United States to spend the dollars and have the capacity to do research and development."





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