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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 January, 2004, 23:17 GMT
Questions over Cheney's speech

By Tim Weber
BBC News Online business editor in Davos

US Vice President Dick Cheney's speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF) had been much anticipated, being trailed as an olive branch to Europe - but did it convince the audience?

At a conference where nearly everybody is either rich, famous, important or all three things together, not many things create a buzz of excitement.

US Vice-President Dick Cheney
Cheney was making a rare speech outside the US
But the conference centre in Davos was definitely buzzing ahead of Mr Cheney's speech, especially after the palpable tensions between Europeans and Americans at last year's forum.

So did Mr Cheney's speech meet expectations?

Well, it nearly did, but not quite - at least on the European side.

Everybody agreed that the speech showed the US administration was reaching out to its allies. But many would have liked the vice president to give a bit more detail.

Eva Biaudet, a Finnish MP and former health minister, said the vice president had failed to touch upon key issues like "poverty, injustice and development".

And she was not the only one who professed to be shocked about Mr Cheney's "militaristic view of how to get democracy" - his call to use force should diplomacy fail.

'No breakthrough'

At least there had been a change in tone, said Thierry de Montbrial, president of Ifri, the French Institute for International Relations.

He laid out clearly the need for a collaborative approach to challenge terrorism, Iran and North Korea
Thomas Donohue, president of the US Chamber of Commerce
"Cheney's speech showed continuity, after all he is the architect of the foreign policy of America's neo-conservatives... but there was an interesting change in tone, with smoother language, more acceptable wordings and no mention of rogue states."

But he noted that the speech brought "no breakthrough for France", although at least there were no swipes against Paris.

"We could not expect more in an election year," said Mr de Montbrial.

British listeners, perhaps unsurprisingly, were more positive.

"The speech did go down well," said Adair Turner, former Confederation of British Industry (CBI) boss, and now a top executive at Merrill Lynch UK.

"Cheney did a very good job of setting out the American approach, and talked a lot about democracy and freedom," Mr Turner said.

Americans divided

George Mallinckrodt, president of UK investment bank Schroders, had similar sentiments.

"Very well balanced, very statesman-like," was his verdict, although he acknowledged that the vice president could probably have done more to reach out to European partners.

But even Americans were divided about their vice president's speech.

"He laid out clearly the need for a collaborative approach to challenge terrorism, Iran and North Korea," said Thomas Donohue, president of the US Chamber of Commerce, praising how Mr Cheney had laid out the "tremendous historical context of the transatlantic alliance".

Unsurprisingly a Democratic politician, US Congressman Sander Levin from Michigan, was unconvinced.

While he agreed with the basic sentiment of Mr Cheney's remarks, "he did not do well in addressing the issues that actually bother people... like how unilateral US action fits in with the concept of collegiality" set out in the speech.

By now, Mr Cheney and his large entourage had left, the buzz was gone and the forum's participants went back to their real business - networking.

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