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Powell: Trans-Atlantic ties firm

Powell: "It's not us who have made the world a more dangerous place to live, it's terrorists."

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has described the trans-Atlantic relationship as strong, despite European public opinion running against the war in Iraq.

His comments came ahead of U.S. President George W. Bush's three-day state visit to Britain. Bush is expected to face widescale protests during his stay.

"The trans-Atlantic relationship is strong, it's vital, and ... the United States wants the people of Europe to know that even though we may have had disagreements in the past over Iraq, this is the time to move forward," Powell told CNN anchor Bill Hemmer in an interview recorded Monday at the State Department.

The secretary of state left Washington late Monday for a meeting with his European counterparts in Brussels.

The Bush administration is fighting public opinion; a recent poll showed more than 50 percent of Europeans believe the United States has made the world a more dangerous place to live.

"It's not us who have made the world a more dangerous place to live, it's terrorists," Powell said. "It's those people who are determined to use terror as a weapon against all civilizations.

"The Bush administration is working hard to make this a more peaceful world, a more democratic world," he said.

Despite the difficulties associated with the war in Iraq, Powell said Bush and many other European leaders remain committed to the effort, including top allies like British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

"What we have to do is convey to our population, both here in the United States and the population in Europe, that ... a decision was made that we believe was the right decision, others think it was not. But let's move forward now. Let's not debate that decision," Powell said.

Powell said time will show "we are on the right side of history on this issue."

He denied the White House was preparing for a hasty exit from Iraq with plans announced for the transfer of power back to the Iraqi people.

"There's always a risk of moving too fast. There's always a risk of not moving fast enough," he said.

"Those of our critics who say, 'You're not moving fast enough. You ought to turn over sovereignty tomorrow,' my answer is, to who? To what? To what institution? To what legitimacy? And are you not setting them up for failure?" Powell asked.

Over the weekend, the Iraqi Governing Council said Iraq will have a new transitional government with full sovereign powers by the end of June 2004 and will have a constitution and a permanent, democratically elected government by the end of 2005.

The statement followed a meeting with the U.S.-backed coalition's civilian administrator, L. Paul Bremer, who recently met with Bush.

Bremer returned to Baghdad with new proposals for the council aimed at speeding up the transfer of authority to Iraqis.

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