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Analysis: Bush leaves Europe cold

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Bush cited progress in the war on terrorism and in turning the U.S. economy around.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- U.S. President George W. Bush has delivered an upbeat State of the Union address, defending his stewardship of the nation at home and abroad. But he warned much work remained in the war on terror. This is how some foreign affairs and economic analysts reacted to his speech on CNN:

CNN's Senior International Correspondent Walter Rodgers: Many Europeans have never been very impressed with Bush, but if he had come up with links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda that could have swayed them. This speech would not have been persuasive for those people, and is unlikely to change their view that they were right on the war in Iraq and Bush was wrong.

Bush said Americans were still at risk and at risk of war, but he fudged the issue of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and is now talking only about weapons program activities in that country.

At least though many Europeans will be pleased there were no more references to the "axis of evil" (the phrase he used in his 2002 speech referring to Iraq, Iran and North Korea) and no indication that he is going after the remaining members. Some Europeans worry that Bush is a unilateralist but their only consolation is that U.S. forces are overstretched and can't immediately embark on any more unilateralist activity.

The smart money is that Bush will be reelected. He has the instruments of power at his disposal and a $200 million war chest. But until we know who the Democrat candidate is, let's lay off setting any odds on the election result.

Christian Malar, senior foreign analyst at France 3 TV: I think people will be disappointed in France and Europe there was no reference to the U.N. when we have seen Paul Bremer asking Secretary General Kofi Annan to be involved in elections in Iraq and to draft a constitution. So globally it was the speech of a strong candidate sure he has done the right things.

The French though want reconciliation with the U.S. and President Jacques Chirac is expecting Bush to come on June 6 for the 60th anniversary of the Normandy landings and to have a sort of reconciliation day.

And the French showed recently when they hosted James Baker in Paris that they were ready to help to reduce the Iraqi debt. It was a sign that they wanted to improve the relationship with the United States. But the speech was probably disappointing for the French government, for Chirac.

Leonard Doyle, Foreign Editor, The UK's Independent newspaper: The most important thing is perhaps a sense of relief that we have no more talk of the "axis of evil." There seem to be no more adventures that the world is going to be drawn into. So I think the world will feel at least a sense that this is a stock-taking exercise and this is a domestic exercise focused primarily at the American electorate.

The policy was pretty much "steady as she goes." Let's keep the focus on the war on terror but let's not go down any new tracks. To take any initiative is to risk alienating domestic voters. But we have been waiting for some real movement on the Middle East conflict and it's absence will be disappointing for British people ... for Europeans who went along with the war in Iraq on the basis that this would lead to a settlement. But I think in an election year it's kind of a given that there will be no policy initiatives in the Middle East and this is the ongoing tragedy.

Tony Blair might look in some amusement at the latest phraseology around WMDs. I think there will be a certain amount of jaws dropping in Britain and across Europe. We now go from Saddam having WMDs, to Blair's finesse that it was WMD programs. And now we go to WMD activities so we have moved a long way from the original justification for war. I think people will be commenting heavily on that because in Britain we have our own issue next week -- the Kelly affair - which is all about WMD and justification for war.

Richard Cunningham, Chief Executive of Cunningham Asset Management:

Bush does have a habit it seems of glossing over detail. He referred to job creation when in fact if you look at the job record over his presidency it is actually a fall of 2.3 million. If you look at recent non-farm payroll numbers, only 1,000 jobs were created in December. Okay, so Bush is looking forward ... but from what I have seen from the speech there's not a great deal about how he is going to deliver tax cuts and sustain them. And I think that is going to be the question which the Democrats and the electorate are going to be asking.

You could start to create more employment and more revenue from tax income but that depends on an expanding economy. GDP has increased over the past year quite dramatically but how sustainable is that? We are seeing an improvement in bottom line figures from the Dow 30 companies this week; that is all well and good but is it coming at the cost of purely cutting back on employment and costs or is it really creating revenue which could create additional tax revenue for the Bush administration and that's less obvious right now.

If you take a parallel with something like the DSNP index which people talk about as the benchmark stock index there was a great rally last year of 24 percent but when you have already fallen by 50 percent there is not a great deal. It is also very unclear as to what is going to be his plan in sustaining GDP growth coming into the latter quarter of this year. I would probably be putting my money outside the U.S. economy and I would probably be putting it into sterling or euros.


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