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Bush wins NATO help to train Iraqi forces

U.S., European Union offer to host forum on aid to 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.

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Will President Bush be successful in his fence-mending trip to Europe?
George W. Bush
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- NATO leaders agreed Tuesday to help the United States train Iraqi forces, President Bush said at the latest stop on his three-nation tour of Europe.

Later, after Bush met with European Union leaders, officials announced they were readying an EU-U.S. forum to coordinate international aid to Iraq.

Despite disagreements about the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, members of the NATO military alliance are looking to the future, the president said.

"Twenty-six nations sat around the table saying, 'Let's get the past behind us and now let's focus on helping the world's newest democracy succeed,'" Bush said during a post-summit news conference with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

De Hoop Scheffer added, "It was an excellent summit."

All 26 NATO members pledged in some capacity to support the alliance's mission in Iraq to train Iraqi security officers -- whether through personnel or financial donations.

Training Iraqi military and police forces is seen as a key component to reducing the 150,000 U.S. troops deployed in Iraq.

"The NATO training mission is an important mission because after all, the success of Iraq depends upon the capacity and the willingness of the Iraqis to defend their own selves against terrorists," Bush said.

Some NATO countries -- like France and Germany -- have refused to participate in training inside Iraq. France has offered to train Iraqi personnel outside the country.

In Iraq, the nation's main Shiite Muslim political coalition on Tuesday named its choice for Iraq's next prime minister, an Iraqi political official said. The United Iraqi Alliance's nominee, Dawa Party leader Ibrahim al-Jaafari, has opposed the early withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. (Full story)

Bush's 'listening tour'

Dismissing comments by a reporter who said Bush was on a "charm offensive" in Europe, the president said his was a different kind of trip.

"You might call this a listening tour: that people have got things on their mind, and they want me to hear it, and part of what they've got on their mind is the dialogue that's taken place with China and the European Union," Bush said, referring to a European initiative to lift an arms embargo against China.

Europe and the United States blocked weapons sales to China in response to Beijing's crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Bush cited a "deep concern" in the United States about relaxing arms restrictions, which he said "would change the balance of relations between China and Taiwan."

The president said European leaders promised to develop a protocol to assuage U.S. fears.

Bush said he was glad he attended the NATO summit.

"It gave me a chance to say that the relationship between the United States and Europe is a vital relationship, a necessary relationship, an important relationship," he said.

"It's a relationship and an organization that needs to make sure that its capabilities meet the threats of the 21st century."

Spreading values

Later Tuesday, the president met with EU leaders on a range of issues, including counterterrorism and global warming.

Afterward, European Council President Jean-Claude Juncker announced that the EU and the United States would host an Iraqi aid forum if the country's government asked.

Bush emphasized several times in comments to reporters the closeness of the ties between the United States and Europe, despite past disagreements.

"It's in our interest, because the values that caused the European Union to exist in the first place, the values of human rights and human dignity and freedom, are the same values we share," he said. "And we have an opportunity to work together to spread those values."

Bush also addressed the so-called nuclear threat from Iran, saying he's getting good advice from his European partners on the issue.

"Great Britain, Germany and France are negotiating with the ayatollahs to achieve a common objective, something that we all want, and that is for them not to have a nuclear weapon," the president said at a news conference. "It's in our interests for them not to have a nuclear weapon."

He dismissed the idea that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran as "ridiculous" but did not close that door entirely.

"Having said all that, all options are on the table," he said, prompting laughter from some in the audience. (Full story)

Breaking bread with Chirac

Earlier Tuesday, Bush met separately with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, new Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Bush praised the British leader. "A strong Europe is very important for the United States ... The prime minister is one of the strong leaders in Europe," he said.

Blair returned the compliment: "The president set out very clearly a way forward on the Middle East process. There is a renewed sense of vigor and optimism."

Besides Belgium, Bush's fence-mending mission to Europe also will include stops in Germany and Slovakia.

The president is set to meet with virtually every major political figure on the continent. On Monday, he dined with French President Jacques Chirac and is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.

Chirac -- a strong critic of Bush's Iraq policy -- and the U.S. president held what was later described as an "extremely cordial" dinner meeting.

The two leaders insisted that the Franco-American partnership remains strong despite frayed feelings over Iraq.

A senior administration official said the meeting between Bush and Chirac ran longer than expected and covered such issues as Iraq, Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Syrian occupation of Lebanon and the European Union move to lift the arms embargo on China.

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