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Christiane Amanpour on how the world views the Bush administration

CNN Moderator: How do world leaders view George W. Bush?

Christiane Amanpour: Opinion is somewhat divided at the moment. World leaders, certainly U.S. allies, are concerned that George W. Bush has not yet shown much personal interest in foreign affairs. They are concerned about some policies he says he wants to pursue. For instance, in Europe, the idea of building a national missile defense worries some of the European allies, as well as Russia and China. Europeans are also hoping that the new administration does not withdraw American troops from the Balkans, and people in the Balkans know that if the Americans leave, that could send a destabilizing signal to the region. But the general impression is that the Bush administration will not be hasty in withdrawing those troops, and there will be no missile defense for many years to come.

On the other hand, many world leaders think that when it comes to world trade the Bush administration will be very effective, and on the whole, people expect U.S. foreign policy to follow the same broad direction that it has done in the past.

Comment from chat room: Here in Greece many people feel that he will isolate the United States from the international community.

Christiane Amanpour: There was a fear that George W. Bush and the Republican administration would become more isolationist than the Clinton administration. Most experts, however, don't believe that the U.S. will become isolationist. What they do think, though, is that a Bush administration will be much more cautious than the previous Clinton administration in using American military power, or even American diplomatic efforts overseas, because they have a much narrower definition of strict U.S. national security interests. You'll recall that the Clinton administration broadened the concept of what lies in America's interest, by intervening to promote democracies, to expand NATO, and to stop the abuse of human rights, for instance, in the Balkans.

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CNN Moderator: Is his lack of foreign expertise expected to hinder any relationships?

Christiane Amanpour: Many leaders are looking forward to meeting him, because they want to judge for themselves just how he plans to proceed, and many officials I've spoken to say they expect America to continue its alliances around the world, and its obligations around the world. But there is a certain nervousness, because, right now, people just don't know.

Question from chat room: What about the Middle East peace process and Bush?

Christiane Amanpour: The Middle East is a very tricky subject for any U.S. administration. Clearly, Israel remains the firm ally of the U.S., no matter what administration is in power, and the U.S. is also committed to trying to find a lasting peace in the region. However, with the current troubles between the Palestinians and Israelis, the next U.S. administration may find their policy shaped by who is the next prime minister of Israel.

In Syria, they are saying they welcome the election of George W. Bush, recalling that it was George Bush, Sr. who launched the Middle East peace process at Madrid in 1991.

CNN Moderator: Have many foreign heads of state already been making contact with President-elect Bush?

Christiane Amanpour: Clearly, all the foreign heads of state have sent their customary and traditional congratulations to the new U.S. president. In December, George W. Bush met with the French president, Jacques Chirac in Washington, because Chirac was visiting as president of the European Union. The prime minister of Britain, Tony Blair, intends to meet the new president this spring, and Britain, of course, is eager to maintain what's commonly called the special relationship between the U.S. and Britain. And Bush is scheduled to visit Europe this summer, at various summit meetings, where he will meet all the Western allies and Russia and Japan's leader, too.

Comment from chat room: Mr. Bush has placed extremely smart people behind himself.

Christiane Amanpour: Mr. Bush's foreign policy team is getting a lot of attention. They are well-known, they have all been present in previous Republican administrations, but some say that they are politicians from the Cold War era, with a world view shaped by Cold War politics. Others, on the other hand, feel this will be a very businesslike, competent team with whom they can do business.

Question from chat room: Do you think the election process has seriously damaged Bush's credibility abroad?

Christiane Amanpour: There has been an enormous amount of attention paid in the international press all over the world to the election and how it was finally resolved. Much of the commentary in Europe, whether in the more liberal press or more conservative press, was astounded at two things. One, the intervention of the U.S. Supreme Court to decide the presidential election and secondly, they see George W. Bush as being much more conservative in his appointments and in his public speeches than he was during the election campaign, when he portrayed himself as a moderate and a unifier. So, they're waiting to see which is the real Bush, and what direction his presidency will take. Will it be moderate, as he suggested in his campaign, or will it lean more toward the conservative side?

CNN Moderator: How would you describe the level of interest in today's inaugural events by the overseas public?

Christiane Amanpour: Well, certainly the inauguration is being broadcast live on several cable channels, including CNN and others around the world. There is a great deal of interest in who the next president of the U.S. is, because the president of the U.S. also is a world leader, and what America does affects the rest of the world.

CNN Moderator: Thank you for joining us today.

Christiane Amanpour: Thank you very much. It was a pleasure to answer all your questions.

Christiane Amanpour joined the chat room via telephone from London. CNN provided a typist. The above is an edited transcript of the interview on Saturday, January 20, 2001.

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