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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 February, 2005, 05:01 GMT
Tour diary: Bush in Europe
US President George W Bush is in Europe, attempting to rebuild relationships strained by the war in Iraq. BBC Washington correspondent Justin Webb is travelling with the president. Here is his diary.

21 February

Odd couple

Was the president warmly received today?

That was an issue at the post-speech briefing and it brought a wonderful response from a senior administration official who has spent time in Europe.

Europeans, he explained, don't believe in audience participation at these events - it's a cultural thing. They really were having a good time.

Lame excuse or reasonable point?

An odd moment just before the big dinner this evening with Mr Bush and Mr Chirac.

The president appeared to have gone overboard with his new touchy-feely social worker persona - talking of himself and Jacques "working together to help spread medicines necessary to cure illness".

They would make an odd couple of nurses.

Now the much-heralded meal is over - Chirac and Bush have broken bread.

It was all over by half past eight local time - more shopping mall fast food joint than French style feast.

I asked the White House briefer whether there was any chance of Chirac and Bush going off to a club afterwards.

No, he said. And that was all. This meeting mattered. It was not a joking matter.

Addressing Europe

President Bush's speech to EU and Nato leaders was a solid performance - no vaulting rhetoric but no slips either and a properly presidential feel.

In fact it began with a very good joke about how lauded Benjamin Franklin was when he came to Europe and how "surprised" the President was not to receive the same accolades.

There's a new spring in the president's step since his re-election. He is no longer the slightly chippy defensive character he was in his first term.

He has been through fire and been proven. Even his political enemies in the US admit that. (It's worth noting that no Democrat has won as large a percentage of the popular vote in a US poll since 1964).

One of those enemies - Democratic Senator Joe Biden - told me the other day that the Europeans must "get over it", learn to live with and work with this guy.

The assembled worthies applauded warmly enough at the end of the speech but... was I alone in thinking the whole occasion was a touch flat and devoid of real warmth.

Nobody from either side is reaching out and saying we were wrong, nobody is saying sorry.

First impressions

To travel with the White House is to see the world in style. Even gloomy Belgium is a pleasure to arrive in.

In the early morning drizzle, we sweep across to a corner of the airport - no passport control, no baggage pick-up.

At the bottom of the steps of the plane, a rather industrial-looking trolley has been placed, loaded with waffles and hot chocolate to soothe our entrance to the European Union - and capture the hearts and minds of America's opinion formers.

It works. Too well. The buses are delayed while portly White House correspondents indulge in a binge on the local delicacies.

The place itself is little changed from when I lived here years ago.

The journey in from the airport - past the squat prefabricated-looking Nato building, down through winding shuttered streets, past pallid early morning shoppers - is not exactly a grand entrance to the glories of Europe. Washington DC it isn't.

But the president is not here to admire the view. He means business and that business starts now...




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Watch George W Bush address European leaders



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