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Bush, EU downplay Kyoto divisions

Bush and Persson
Bush and Persson:agreed to disagree  

GOTHENBURG, Sweden (CNN) -- Sweden's prime minister is playing down differences between the EU and the United States over global warming at President Bush's first summit with European leaders.

As anti-U.S. protesters clashed with police outside the summit in the Swedish city of Gothenburg, Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson told a news conference: "The European Union sticks to the Kyoto Protocol and (will) go for a ratification process."

The Kyoto Protocol is aimed at reducing emissions of carbon dioxide that contribute to global warming. It was negotiated by the U.S. and major industrialised nations, but Bush has since rejected it.

"The U.S. has chosen another policy. But we have the same targets and we have to meet the same problems. So ... we agreed to disagree about substance," Persson added.

Bush, in his debut summit with EU leaders and on his third stop of a five-nation tour, reiterated his opposition to the accord.

"We didn't feel like the Kyoto treaty was well balanced," he said.

"It didn't include developing nations. The goals were not realistic. However, that doesn't mean we cannot continue to work together -- and will work together --on reducing greenhouse gases. "

Bush, Prodi and Persson talk issues at a joint news conference (June 14)

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Bush said the differences on the accord should not undermine the EU-U.S. relationship.

Environmental campaign group Greenpeace issued a statement urging the EU to ratify the Kyoto Protocol without the U.S..

"This is the first international environment agreement that the US has walked away from, and a very profound domino to fall," said Michel Raquet, Greenpeace International climate spokesperson.

"We ask again that the EU here at this meeting declare publicly and strongly that it will ratify the Kyoto Protocol without the US, now that Bush has abandoned his country’s responsibilities to the international climate agreement.

"The EU must respect public opinion and prove that they are listening to the people who voted them into power and ratify the Protocol with or without the USA by the end of the year," said Raquet.

Citing a trade relationship worth $1.5 trillion, Bush said his administration would work closely with European leaders on a new round of global trade negotiations.

"We share a strong interest in maintaining our economic ties," he said.

Bush said he supports a stronger, freer and bigger Europe, and he dismissed suggestions that an expanded EU economy would threaten the U.S..

"I appreciate good competition," he said.

"I believe competition brings out the best in nations and people and entities, and our nation welcomes good, healthy competition."

He said he was concerned about "isolation and protectionism" both within the U.S. and abroad.

"I believe the stronger Europe is, the better it is for America," he said.

On other matters, Persson said he and Bush proposed a fund that would be co-ordinated with the United Nations to help combat the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

"A generation can be swept away. ... We must take our part of the responsibility," Persson said.

The EU and the U.S. also issued a joint statement on the Middle East at the summit.

"It is the first time the European Union and the U.S. are to support the road back for peace and reconciliation, and that is to say that we urge the partners to live up to the cease-fire," Persson said.

About 15,000 protesters -- angry over everything from global warming and globalisation to the death penalty -- demonstrated against Bush's visit to Sweden's second city amid massive police security measures, Reuters reported. Up to 200 demonstrators were arrested.

As many as 2,000 extra police had already been brought into the city for the Bush visit and the EU summit.

Bush came to Sweden from Brussels, where he urged NATO allies to abandon a "Cold War mentality" and embrace his missile defence programme.

His proposal to either scrap or amend the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty did not sit well with a few European leaders, who fear scrapping the treaty -- a bedrock of U.S.-Russian nuclear stability for three decades -- could lead to a costly arms race.

Bush's trip will also take him to Poland and to Slovenia, where he is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The meeting was added after Moscow voiced new willingness to discuss changes to the ABM treaty.

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