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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 June, 2004, 12:33 GMT 13:33 UK
Bush defiant on Turkey's EU bid
George W Bush
Mr Bush said Turkey belonged in the EU
US President George W Bush has repeated his call for Turkey to be admitted to the EU, despite being rebuked by France for interfering in Europe's affairs.

Mr Bush told students in Istanbul the US believed that "as a European power, Turkey belongs in the European Union".

He said EU membership for Turkey would be "a crucial advance in relations between the Muslim world and the West".

On Monday, French President Jacques Chirac denounced Mr Bush's call for Turkey to get a date for EU acceptance.

Mr Chirac said the US president had gone too far, adding that his remarks were like Mr Chirac telling the US how to manage relations with Mexico.

Correspondents say US-French friction remains, despite attempts to heal rifts left by the Iraq war which France bitterly opposed.

'Not his concern'

In his latest speech, Mr Bush said: "Including Turkey in the EU would prove that Europe is not the exclusive club of a single religion, and it would expose the 'clash of civilisations' as a passing myth of history."

He went on to say that Nato leaders at their summit in Istanbul had dedicated themselves to the advance of reform in the Middle East.

"I believe that freedom is the future of the Middle East, because I believe that freedom is the future of all humanity," he said.

On Sunday, Mr Bush praised Turkey as a model Muslim democracy, and a country which embraced the rule of law and freedom.

Speaking on the sidelines of the summit the following day, Mr Chirac said this was none of Mr Bush's business.

"Not only did he go too far, he ventured into territory which is not his concern," he said.

Mr Chirac has in the past said he backs Turkish EU membership in principle if Ankara fulfils its conditions.

Turkey is keen to start membership talks, and argues that it has already met most of the criteria.

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