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The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"A sense of unease across the Atlantic"
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Republican Congressman John Cooksey
"We try and work very closely with the Europeans"
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President George W Bush
speaking in Spanish but mispronouncing the name of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Anzar
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Alberto Aza, spokesman for Spanish Foreign Ministry
"I hope it is the most comfortable place for him to start the trip to Europe"
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Tuesday, 12 June, 2001, 12:36 GMT 13:36 UK
Bush on tricky foreign mission
President George Bush and Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar
Bush and Aznar are both conservatives
President George W Bush is in Spain at the start of a five-day visit to Europe - his first since taking office and one that will bring him face to face with governments that are openly critical of some of his policies.

After meetings in Spain, he is to go on to Nato headquarters in Belgium and a European Union summit in Sweden.

It is a great honour to travel to Spain and visit the King and also Prime Minister Anzar

Gaffe by US President Bush
Among the issues certain to be raised are US plans for a controversial new missile defence system and Mr Bush's rejection of the Kyoto accord, aimed at curbing the atmospheric pollution that may be causing climate change.

The president had his first meeting with King Juan Carlos at the royal palace, before flying out to Quintos de Mora, a government-owned estate south of Madrid, to see Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar.

The BBC correspondent in Madrid says that as one of Europe's few remaining Conservative leaders, Mr Aznar is a natural ally for the US president.

Bush itinerary 12-16 June
12th - Spain
13th - Nato HQ
14th - EU talks
15th - Poland
16th - Meets Russian president

However, the US president, prone to gaffes in English, has already risked upsetting his hosts in an interview in Spanish by mispronouncing the name of the prime minister.

"It is a great honour to travel to Spain and visit the King and also Prime Minister Anzar. But I have to practise the very pretty language, and unless I practise I am going to destroy this language," he said in a Spanish TV interview broadcast on Monday.

Discussions between the two leaders were expected to focus on Latin America and defence.

And security is tight, amid police worries of protests or possible activity by the Basque separatist group, ETA.

Kyoto anger

On his tour, Mr Bush will be seeking to mend recent rifts in the vital relationship between Europe and America.

George W Bush: Kyoto rejection angered Europeans
European governments are annoyed that Mr Bush publicly rejected the Kyoto agreement on greenhouse gas emissions as "fatally flawed" and made clear he would put the US economy before global warming.

Just hours before departing for Europe, the president vowed to pursue scientific and diplomatic solutions to global warming, in an attempt to blunt international criticism of his rejection of the Kyoto climate treaty.

But Swedish environment minister Kjell Larsson told the BBC that the only fatal flaw in the Kyoto protocol was the US position not to take part in it.

"We are risking a flawed Kyoto protocol if the US, the biggest emitter, stays outside."

Europeans are also unhappy about his push for a national missile defence system, without discussing how it could change the strategic balance for Europe.

Dissent in the ranks

There have also been mixed messages from Washington about when it intends to withdraw US troops from the Balkans.

The Secretary of State, Colin Powell, told Nato foreign ministers that they had all gone in together and would come out together.

But Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has made it clear he wants US forces out as soon as possible. European leaders will be asking Mr Bush to make clear where he stands on the issue.

The state and defence departments have also taken different positions on missile defence, with Mr Powell leaning towards more consultation, while Mr Rumsfeld insists there can be no compromise.

The White House has tried to smooth some of the transatlantic tensions by sending envoys to consult on missile defence, and acknowledging that it should have spoken to other signatories about the Kyoto treaty before rejecting it.

Rocky start

But our Washington correspondent says Mr Bush has got off to a rocky start with his European allies, and the next few days will be a chance for both sides to pull the relationship back onto a more even keel.

It is not the first time Mr Bush has been to Europe, but his foreign experience is limited, and he is still relatively new to his job.

No breakthroughs are expected on any of the big issues.

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See also:

30 Mar 01 | Americas
Kyoto: Why did the US pull out?
08 Jun 01 | Europe
Bush's European timetable
19 May 01 | Americas
Bush and Putin set for summit
04 Apr 01 | Americas
France turns heat on Bush
24 Mar 01 | Europe
EU presses Bush on global warming
02 Apr 01 | Americas
Bush urged to rethink Kyoto snub
12 Jun 01 | Americas
Europe criticises McVeigh execution
11 Jun 01 | Sci/Tech
Bush and EU seek climate concord
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