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Bush calls for 'new era of trans-Atlantic unity'

President urges peace in Mideast, support for Iraq

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Bush calls for peace in Mideast, urges reforms in Iran and Russia.

With olive branch in hand, President Bush arrives in Europe.

Most European nations are ready to work with Bush.

• Transcript: Bush's speech
• Bush: Reduce trade protections
Will President Bush be successful in his fence-mending trip to Europe?
George W. Bush
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- President Bush told European leaders Monday that trans-Atlantic unity was essential to take on shared challenges -- including Middle East peace, an alleged Iranian nuclear threat and moves away from democracy in Russia.

On the first day of his fence-mending tour through Europe, Bush dined with French President Jacques Chirac, who was among the most vocal critics of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Speaking briefly to the media alongside Chirac, Bush said making this his first dinner in Europe since he won re-election shows "how important" his relationship with Chirac is "for me personally ... and for my country."

"Every time I meet with Jacques, he's got good advice," Bush said, turning to Chirac. "I'm looking forward to listening to you."

Chirac, through a translator, said the United States and France have "always had warm relations" and share "many ideals and values," which they have worked for 200 years to "keep alive." In the struggle against weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, he said, "we have the same approach."

Asked if relations were strong enough that Chirac would be invited to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Bush joked, "I'm looking for a good cowboy."

The pair did find common ground with a call for Syria to leave Lebanon in the wake of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

In a joint statement, they added: "We support the U.N. investigation into this terrorist act and urge the full cooperation of all parties in order to identify those responsible for this act.

Though his itinerary includes just two other countries -- Germany and Slovakia -- Bush is planning to meet with virtually every major political player on the continent, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Those two, along with Chirac, spearheaded the fight against the war in Iraq.

Bush will also meet with new Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko.

In a televised address Monday, Bush called for the rifts of recent years to be put in the past.

"Today, America and Europe face a moment of consequence and opportunity," the president said.

"Together, we can once again set history on a hopeful course, away from poverty and despair and toward development and the dignity of self-rule; away from resentment and violence and toward justice and the peaceful settlement of differences."

He added, "As past debates fade, as great duties become clear, let us begin a new era of trans-Atlantic unity." (Transcript)

Bush expanded on the foreign policy vision he laid out in last month's inaugural address, saying that his goal is one shared by democratic leaders worldwide.

The effort to combat terrorism and spread liberty is "not an American strategy or European strategy or Western strategy," he said.

"Spreading liberty for the sake of peace is the cause of all mankind," he said, adding that "our alliance has the ability and the duty to tip the balance of history in the favor of freedom."

"Our greatest opportunity, and our immediate goal, is peace in the Middle East," he said, adding that "lasting successful reform in the Middle East will not be imposed from the outside. It must be chosen from within."

Bush said that a settlement of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians was within reach. "Our peace depends on their hope and freedom," Bush said.

Syria told to leave Lebanon

He also called on Syria to "end its occupation of Lebanon," saying "the Lebanese people have the right to be free." (Anti-Syria protest in Beirut)

"The United States and Europe share an interest in a democratic, independent Lebanon," he said.

"Our shared commitment to democratic progress is being tested in Lebanon, a once-thriving country that now suffers under the influence of an oppressive neighbor. Just as the Syrian regime must take stronger action to stop those who support violence and subversion in Iraq, it must end its support for terrorist groups seeking to destroy the hope of peace between Israelis and Palestinians."

He called on European leaders to support U.S. efforts to end what the Bush administration describes as a nuclear threat from Iran.

"In Iran, the free world shares a common goal. For the sake of peace, the Iranian regime must end its support for terrorism and must not develop nuclear weapons," he said to applause.

Many Europeans fear the United States may launch military action against Iran, even as European leaders are involved in negotiations with the Islamic republic. The United States has refused to enter those discussions.

Bush said that "no option can be taken permanently off the table. Iran is, however, different from Iraq. We're in the early stages of diplomacy."

He also called for democratic reforms in Iran. "The time has arrived for the Iranian regime to listen to the Iranian people and respect their rights and join in the movement toward liberty that is taking place all around them."

The Iraq war strained European-U.S. relations. Bush's trip, which follows a swing through Europe by new Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is aimed in no small part at building support for U.S. efforts to expand democracy worldwide over the coming years.

All countries "now have an interest in the success of a free and democratic Iraq, which will fight terror, be a beacon of freedom and be a source of true stability in the region," he said.

Monday evening, thousands demonstrated outside the U.S. Embassy in Brussels, many staunchly opposing the Iraq war. Some held huge signs reading "Bush Not Welcome" or "Bush Go Home." At least one sign referred to him as an "outlaw."

Belgian officials reported the protests were peaceful. Hundreds of police were on hand.

In his speech, Bush said he supported Russia's admission into the World Trade Organization, but said "all European countries should place democratic reform at the heart of their dialogue with Russia."

"For Russia to make progress as a European nation, the Russian government must renew a commitment to democracy and the rule of law," he said.

The president and first lady Laura Bush arrived Sunday evening in Brussels, the headquarters of the NATO alliance. He will meet with fellow NATO leaders and members of the European Council on Tuesday in addition to having one-on-one meetings with two European leaders who supported his Iraq policy -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

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