Bush, Blair ready to face world trade critics
HALTON, England (CNN) -- Anticipating thousands of protesters at Friday's economic summit in Italy, President Bush criticized them as anti-free trade activists whose views would stymie development and leave nations in poverty.
"For those who want to shut down trade, I say this to them as clear as I can: You're hurting poor countries," Bush said at Thursday's news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair after talks at the British leader's country estate outside London.
"For those who kind of use this opportunity to say that the world should become isolationists, they're condemning those who are poor to poverty, and we don't accept it. We don't accept it," said Bush.
For his part, Blair said he hoped the protesters would make their point peacefully because global trade is of "huge importance, not just to the most prosperous parts of the world, but also to some of the poorest countries of the world."
Missile defense and global warming
The two leaders affirmed the strong ties between the United States and Britain and downplayed differences over missile defense and an international treaty dealing with global warming. The two countries, Blair said, "are and always will be key allies."
The prime minister stopped short of endorsing Bush's plan for a missile defense system -- a sore point with Russia -- but he praised the administration's approach in its talks.
"Well, first of all, on the subject of missile defense, obviously we await a specific proposal from the U.S. administration," Blair said. "But I want to say this and say it clearly, that I think President Bush is right to raise the issue of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and say that that needs new and imaginative solutions, because it's a huge threat facing the whole of the world."
In return, Bush saluted Blair as a man willing to listen to new ideas -- unlike "some leaders who just out of hand reject any willingness to think differently about security."
Bush also held firm to his opposition to the Kyoto protocol, an international treaty aimed at reducing greenhouse gases. Bush said his administration would craft a better way, although it has yet to offer specifics.
"We want to reduce greenhouse gases. ... But first things first, as far as I'm concerned," the president said. "Our strategy must make sure working people in America aren't going out of work."
Time for tourism
Bush and wife Laura are to spend the night at Chequers, Blair's country estate, before flying to Italy on Friday for the start of the G8 summit, a gathering of the world's seven wealthiest democracies and Russia.
Most of Thursday was devoted to ceremony and sightseeing.
The Bushes dined with Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace. They also toured the British Museum, where the first lady read a Texan myth to about 30 schoolchildren.
The president and his wife were also given a VIP tour of the once-secret underground Cabinet War rooms, where Winston Churchill -- one of Bush's heroes -- plotted World War II strategy.
Still, the president couldn't escape politics as there was some trans-Atlantic partisan sniping as well.
Trans-Atlantic cross fire
White House aides lashed out at Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle for comments he made about Bush that were published Thursday in USA Today.
Daschle said Bush's policies were driving a wedge between the United States and its allies, particularly, he said, by pulling back from pursuing peace agreements in the Middle East and other parts of the world, and by developing an anti-missile shield.
"I think we are isolating ourselves, and in so isolating ourselves, I think we're minimizing ourselves. I don't think we are taken as seriously today as we were a few years ago," Daschle told USA Today.
The White House quickly objected to Daschle's comments.
Karen Hughes, a counselor to Bush, told CNN: "I think it's a very unseemly departure from tradition for the Senate majority leader to engage in that kind of partisanship when the U.S. president is carrying our country's message abroad."
Hughes said she hoped the remarks were "just a sign that the Senate majority leader is still learning the ropes of his new job. Still, there's really no excuse," she said.
A senior administration official said National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice called Daschle to express the administration's view that his remarks were "not appropriate."
Daschle later told reporters that he stood by his criticisms, but said he probably shouldn't have voiced them while the president was traveling abroad.
In Genoa, Italy, Bush is expected to tackle missile defense, global warming, global economic problems and other issues.
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