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Last Updated: Friday, 30 May, 2003, 15:35 GMT 16:35 UK
Analysis: Bush's grand tour

By Mike Wooldridge
BBC World Affairs correspondent

US President George Bush is hoping his trip to Europe and the Middle East will help to help to heal the divisions opened up by the war in Iraq.

He also hopes to give a boost to the peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians based on the so-called roadmap he unveiled recently.

French President Jacques Chirac and US President George Bush, in Paris, May 2002
All eyes will be on Mr Bush's meeting with Jacques Chirac (left)
There is all-round peacemaking to be done and as Mr Bush sees it, it is in the context of successfully taking on Saddam Hussein and the new reality the war in Iraq has brought to the Middle East region and the wider world.

There must be more than a touch of symbolism in the visit he will be making in Poland to the Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz, to see first-hand, as he put it, one of the lessons of the past - that there is evil in this world.

Poland - Mr Bush's first stop-off - is the least challenging part of his tour. Poland contributed militarily to the Iraq war. It prizes its ties with the United States and yet it is playing an ever more significant role in European politics too.

Fence-mending

From there Mr Bush goes on to St Petersburg to join in the commemorations of the Russian city's 300th anniversary. He has the task of getting the relationship with President Vladimir Putin back on track.

Russia was part of what became known variously as the "nyet, non, nein" alliance, or the coalition of the unwilling in the run up to Iraq war, together with France and Germany.

In Russia's case it seemed to be a sharp setback to the relationship that had been developing between Mr Bush and Mr Putin since the 11 September attacks.

Since the Iraq war, Mr Putin has again been making much of Russia's strategic partnership with the US. But even if the fence-mending begins this weekend, Mr Bush may feel he has learned to lower his expectations of the relationship with Moscow.

If the Bush/Putin encounters are a key test of the success of this ambitious, diplomatic foray, all eyes will inevitably also be on Mr Bush's meeting President Chirac - the leader he holds responsible above all for making it impossible to get specific UN backing for the military action in Iraq.

The French president wants the G8 summit of leading industrialised nations, which is being held on French soil, to be a theatre of reconciliation. Mr Bush will go along with that to a point.

Before leaving Washington he said he looked forward to working with Mr Chirac, but Mr Bush also said Americans did not understand the French decision "to thwart the American desire and the desire of others, to work on security and freedom".

The legacy of the differences over Iraq is still very evident, but Mr Bush said he would not let it get in the way of talks at the G8 summit.

After that comes President Bush's most challenging task of all - in the Middle East - on his first visit there since he took office in 2001.




SEE ALSO:
Bush starts diplomatic mission
30 May 03  |  Europe
French confront US 'smears'
16 May 03  |  Europe
Honeymoon over for Russia and US
14 May 03  |  Politics


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