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Tuesday, 1 May, 2001, 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK
Bush's missile defence diplomacy
George W Bush
Bush is determined to press ahead with his plans
By diplomatic correspondent Barnaby Mason

President Bush appears to have responded to European complaints that he has adopted a unilateralist, take-it-or-leave-it approach to the rest of the world.

Anti-missile missile launch
European leaders fear a new arms race
Before his statement on the missile defence shield, Mr Bush telephoned the leaders of Germany, France and Britain in advance.

A spokesman for the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said he appreciated that the United States was engaging with its allies, and sympathised with the desire to re-examine deterrence because of the threat from rogue states - as Washington calls them.

The Bush speech is part of a public relations drive to change minds: he will be sending a delegation to western Europe and Russia next week, and in June he himself will meet European Union leaders in Sweden.

Worries

All this comes at a time when European governments have become more low-key in voicing their worries about anti-missile defence.

Partly they recognise that Mr Bush is determined to press ahead with his ambitious schemes; partly they don't want to fight a battle now, when deployment is years away and the technology may not work.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair
Tony Blair sympathises with Bush's motives
The Germans have indicated they will soften their opposition, provided that international arms control can be preserved.

That's one reason for Mr Bush to offer further substantial cuts in the number of American long-range nuclear missiles. But the two sides have only called a truce.

The objectors in Europe and elsewhere fear that the end of the ABM treaty will actually encourage the deployment of offensive missiles - especially by the Chinese, who see their small deterrent losing credibility.

The critics think the Americans are exaggerating the threat from countries like North Korea, Iraq and Iran; and that in any case missile defence is not the best way to deal with it.

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See also:

01 May 01 | Americas
Bush to push for missile shield
22 Feb 01 | Middle East
Analysis: A tougher line?
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