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Diplomatic challenges await Bush overseas

Six-country tour to focus on Mideast peace, strained relations

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The president and Laura Bush arrive late Friday in Krakow, Poland.

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KRAKOW, Poland (CNN) -- President Bush arrived Friday in Poland, where he kicks off an ambitious seven-day, six-nation trip aimed at tackling a list of top diplomatic concerns, including building support for Middle East peace and mending fences with European countries that opposed the war in Iraq, particularly France.

Air Force One, with the president and Laura Bush aboard, landed in Krakow shortly before 10 p.m. [4 p.m. EDT].

By making his first stop Poland, a country that supported the U.S. effort to topple Saddam Hussein's regime, the president is beginning his trip on a positive note before proceeding into tougher terrain. He is scheduled to travel to Russia and France, two countries that staunchly opposed the U.S.-led war.

In France, Bush will attend the G-8 summit.

He will then travel to Egypt to meet with Arab leaders before continuing to Jordan for discussions with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

Finally, he will go to Doha, Qatar, home of U.S. Central Command, to visit troops and get an update on conditions in Iraq. The president has no plans to visit Iraq.

The president's activities begin Saturday, when he will meet with top Polish officials and thank them for the country's steadfast support for the war in Iraq. It is his second trip to the country since becoming president.

While in Poland, the president will deliver an address that he said will be "a speech, really, to Europe that says that our common values are strong and that we welcome the emergence of free countries like Poland, and ... we must be reminded of the lessons of the past."

In Russia, Bush will take part in the celebration of St. Petersburg's 300th anniversary and engage in what he called an "important dialogue" with President Vladimir Putin.

"It'll be a dialogue that will really show the world that in spite of our disagreements over what happened in Iraq, that our relationship is strong and that we can move together in positive ways," he said.

Earlier Thursday, U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice said one item on the agenda with Putin is the assistance Russia has given Iran's budding nuclear program. Iran maintains the program is a peaceful effort to produce energy, but U.S. officials believe it is designed to build nuclear weapons.

Bush 'not mad' at France

Dispelling tension stemming from the Iraq debate is likely to be a bigger challenge in France. Leading up to the war, some U.S. officials struck out publicly against France's stance and criticized French leadership for blocking U.S. efforts to build international support for military action.

In an interview Thursday with the French television network FR3, Bush said he is "not mad" at France. "I mean, I'm disappointed, and the American people are disappointed, but now is the time to move forward."

When asked at the news conference Thursday whether France will face reprisals for its actions, Bush replied, "I look forward to working with France to achieve common objectives ... let me be realistic: There is a sense of frustration and disappointment amongst the American people toward the French decision.

"However, that's not going to influence my policy," he said. "My decision is to go and to say to the French government: Let us work together for a Europe which is whole, free and at peace ... Rivalry will end up weakening our efforts to jointly deal with issues like security and peace and AIDS and trade."

Bush said he will also speak at the G-8 Summit in Evian with leaders of other European nations that disagreed with the Iraq policy. The G-8 was split down the middle over Iraq, with the United States, Britain, Italy and Japan supporting war, and France, Germany, Canada and Russia opposing it.

War opponent China will also attend the gathering. Bush plans to meet with President Hu Jintao, Rice said. Trade issues and the North Korean nuclear crisis will be on the agenda, she said.

Middle East peace effort

The president plans to leave the summit a day early to fly to Egypt for a meeting with Arab leaders, including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah II of Jordan, King Hamad of Bahrain and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

Bush said he will make it clear that there is "a responsibility for the leadership in the Arab world to fight terror."

In Jordan, Bush will meet with Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to discuss implementation of the U.S.-backed "road map" to peace. (Full story)

The plan calls for the creation of an independent Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with Israel, by 2005.

"It's going to be a significant visit," Bush said. "It says that I am committed to the peace process" -- particularly significant words from a president who was accused early in his administration of failing to be adequately involved in trying to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


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