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The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"Wherever George Bush goes in Europe protestors seem to follow him"
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US President George W Bush
"It was a good start on a long and important agenda"
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Nato Secretary-General Lord Robertson
"He's challenged the Europeans to think carefully"
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Wednesday, 13 June, 2001, 16:18 GMT 17:18 UK
Bush upbeat on missile defence
Anti-Bush demonstrators outside Nato HQ
Bush has faced protests in Spain and Belgium
President George W Bush has said he is "making good progress" in convincing Nato members of the need for a missile defence shield.

Speaking after a meeting in Brussels with his 18 fellow leaders, Mr Bush said that he found "a new receptivity to missile defence" during the talks.

We must strengthen our alliance, modernise our forces and prepare for new threats

President Bush
He said there was a need to think differently now that the Cold War was over and dismissed the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty as an anachronism.

But a BBC correspondent in Brussels says that a Nato consensus on the issue seems far away.

While Mr Bush has stressed that it is necessary for Nato to "prepare for new threats", his allies are concerned that a missile defence system could disrupt the delicate global diplomatic balance and lead to a new arms race.

He did acknowledge "some nervousness" among his European allies to dismantle the ABM treaty but said that was beginning "to be allayed when they hear the logic behind the rationale".

Bush itinerary 12-16 June
12th - Spain
13th - Nato HQ
14th - EU talks
15th - Poland
16th - Meets Russian president
The US president has made it clear he is prepared to work outside the ABM treaty and move unilaterally to reduce the US weapons arsenal, but said he did not think this would be necessary.

But correspondents say that although Mr Bush believes he has made progress in convincing Nato of the merits of a new missile defence, he will need to work harder to persuade Russia.

Tony Blair and George Bush
It is Bush's first summit with Nato leaders
Ahead of Mr Bush's meeting on Friday with President Vladimir Putin, Russian strategic stability adviser Igor Sergeyev vehemently restated Russia's opposition to Mr Bush's missile plans.

"Russia's position on the need to maintain the ABM treaty is categorical and unchanged," Mr Sergeyev said.

Asked by a reporter about critics who question the wisdom of deploying a system that has failed tests, Mr Bush became heated.

"Those critics are dead wrong," Bush said. "Of course, we're not going to deploy a system that doesn't work. What good will that do?"

Russian Scud missile
Many in Nato fear missile defence could complicate relations with Russia and China
But there is a real concern in many European capitals that a missile shield could antagonise the Chinese, for example, and could lead to a new and dangerous nuclear arms race.

European leaders also disagree on the extent of the danger posed by what America calls rogue states, which include North Korea, Iran and Iraq.

Addressing a news conference after the morning session, Nato Secretary-General George Robertson said the allies had listened to US arguments with an open mind. No decision had been taken and consultations would continue, he said.

Mr Robertson said Nato members were embarking on a reflection about the new security challenges which face the alliance.

The Western leaders meeting in Brussels also committed themselves to:

  • The strengthening of the European defence role
  • Continuing to maintain a presence in the Balkans and assisting Macedonia in dealing with the separatist insurgency. Mr Robertson dismissed fears that the US was planning to withdraw its troops from the region.
  • Launching a new round of enlargement at the 2002 summit in Prague. The countries being considered for membership were not specified.

BBC diplomatic correspondent Brian Hanrahan suggested that if there was common ground established, it was a willingness to agree to the US determination to undergo a complete rethink of what Nato is defending against.

But it is not yet clear whether Mr Bush's Nato allies are prepared to go as far as to accept a new missile defence system.

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See also:

13 Jun 01 | Europe
Bush's Nato charm offensive
13 Jun 01 | Europe
Analysis: France's new revolution
13 Jun 01 | Europe
Picture gallery: Bush woos Nato
13 Jun 01 | Europe
Tanker boarded in Bush protest
12 Jun 01 | Europe
Bush and Aznar agree to disagree
12 Jun 01 | Europe
In pictures: Bush in Spain
08 Jun 01 | Europe
Bush's European timetable
30 Mar 01 | Americas
Kyoto: Why did the US pull out?
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