[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 3 February, 2005, 11:58 GMT
Can Rice's trip close rift with Europe?
By Jonathan Beale
BBC state department correspondent

Condoleezza Rice
The tour will take in eight European countries and the Middle East
"The time for diplomacy is now." So said Condoleezza Rice on day one of her confirmation hearing in front of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

True to her word, less than a week in the job, President George W Bush's new secretary of state is embarking on her first major diplomatic mission.

It will encompass a tour of eight European countries and the Middle East in the space of seven days.

So does this all signify a new era in US foreign relations?

Well for one thing, the rhetoric is different.

As national security adviser in the last administration, Condoleezza Rice was seen as stoking the feud with old European allies over Iraq.

Huge differences

In 2003 she was quoted as telling the president to "punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia".

But when she entered the state department for her first day in the job, she was given a warm and enthusiastic welcome by staff and her words seemed to match their hopes.

Dr Rice talked of it being "a great time for the international system" and of uniting allies in the president's cause of spreading democracy and freedom around the world.

But looking beyond the rhetoric, there are still huge differences between most of Europe and America, differences that will certainly not disappear overnight.

Thu: Arrives in London
Fri: Meets Tony Blair and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
Sat: Talks with leaders in Germany, Poland and Turkey
Sun: Meets Turkish government and Russian foreign minister in Ankara, then on to Israel
Mon: Sees Ariel Sharon in Jerusalem, then Mahmoud Abbas in West Bank
Tue: Meets Silvio Berlusconi in Rome, then delivers speech in Paris
Wed: Talks with French ministers, then on to meet Nato and EU officials in Brussels and Luxembourg
Thurs: returns to Washington
Even if the two sides can forgive and forget about Iraq, there is still the question of how to deal with Iran and its nuclear ambitions.

For the time being, the US is backing European talks with Iran - but what if that fails to achieve results?

Then there is America's refusal to sign up to the Kyoto treaty on climate change and the International Criminal Court.

There is a sharp divide on China too. The Bush administration is alarmed at European Union plans to lift an arms embargo on China.

The UK Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, may put it down to "presentational" problems, but the US believes it is much more than that.

Administration officials fear that some EU countries will soon begin selling weapons to China, and that raises questions about the security of Taiwan, as well as sending the wrong signals to China, with its dubious record on human rights.

President's ear

There is one area where both the US and Europe already seem to be more united. That is in pressing forward with bringing peace to the Middle East.

The Middle East is one of the reasons for Ms Rice's visit - hence her planned stopover in Jerusalem and the West Bank for talks with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

She believes that the EU and the US can really work together to push ahead with the plan to create a Palestinian state - something which she believes is within their grasp.

President George W Bush and Condoleezza Rice
Rice is not thought likely to challenge President Bush's ideas

Overall, though, many foreign policy experts in Washington are warning Europeans not to expect huge changes in US policy.

Ms Rice certainly has the ear of President Bush, in a way that Colin Powell never did.

But she sees her job as turning the president's vision of spreading democracy and freedom into reality.

In other words, she is not seen as someone who will challenge his thinking - Ms Rice herself has talked of the need to "confront the outposts of tyranny".

More flexing of US military muscle certainly seems unlikely while US forces are tied up in Iraq.

This speech is certainly a conciliatory gesture but the reality is that nothing has changed
John C, New York, USA

But the new secretary of state is not about to let Iran or North Korea off the hook.

She may, though, spend more time consulting with old allies to better explain the president's views.

So when Ms Rice makes her first major foreign policy speech in Paris next week, expect appreciation from old European allies, rather than agreement.

Rice warns EU over China arms ban
02 Feb 05 |  Americas
Rice backs Palestinian statehood
01 Feb 05 |  Middle East
Rice trip to focus on Middle East
28 Jan 05 |  Americas
Rice begins work on 'great cause'
27 Jan 05 |  Americas
Rice's smooth Senate performance
19 Jan 05 |  Americas
Profile: Condoleezza Rice
20 Jan 05 |  Americas

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific