Page last updated at 02:18 GMT, Wednesday, 11 June 2008 03:18 UK

US and Europe back in step again

By Oana Lungescu
BBC News, Slovenia

EU and US party watching Lipizzaner horse display
The Lipizzaner horses were a fitting goodbye to so-called "cowboy politics"

President George W Bush ended his last summit in Europe in style, watching a performance by Slovenia's dancing Lipizzaner horses on the lawn of the 16th Century Brdo castle - a former royal residence and summer retreat of Yugoslavia's late leader Tito.

Asked if the US president was going to ride one of the white stallions, as befits a naturalised Texan, a Slovenian official answered diplomatically, "Who knows?"

But in the end, Mr Bush just admired the show from his seat, a fitting symbol perhaps for the end of what many have called his "cowboy diplomacy".

After the strains of the Iraq war, Europe and America seem back in step again.

Speaking to reporters on the sun-drenched lawn, Mr Bush said it was "really important for the US to stay close with the EU and work harder together to solve problems".

This summit is about saying goodbye to President Bush, not about a new Iran policy
EU official

He only mentioned Iraq once.

For the outgoing president, the biggest problem now is Iran's nuclear ambitions. And here, Mr Bush said, he and the Europeans were on the same page.

"Iran with a nuclear weapon," he warned, "would be incredibly dangerous for world peace. So we have got to continue working to make it clear, abundantly clear, to them that it is their choice to make, that they can either face isolation, or they can have better relations with all of us."

The EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will go to Tehran this weekend with a package of economic and political incentives, which he describes as an "upgraded" version of an offer he made exactly two years ago, without any tangible results.

Little change

The offer has the blessing of the six powers involved in the nuclear talks - the US, Russia and China, as well as Britain, France and Germany.

Mr Solana will carry a letter signed by the countries' six foreign ministers. But if Iran fails to take the carrot in exchange for suspending its uranium enrichment programme, the stick is likely to be more sanctions targeting Iranian banks.

Or is it? EU officials have been at pains to stress that not much is new in the language of the EU-US summit declaration.

US President George W Bush (C), Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa (R) and European Union Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (L) walking
Europe and the US are united not just by history and values, but also trade

"This summit is about saying goodbye to President Bush," one official said, "not about a new Iran policy".

The EU argues that sanctions against Iranian banks are already in the pipeline, but they just take longer because of the usual lengthy procedures needed to get full implementation by all 27 EU states.

The US envoy to the EU, C Boyden Gray, also speaks of differences of "implementation, not strategy".

But the US would clearly like the EU to move faster, especially amid reports that Iran is withdrawing vast sums from Europe.

The EU is caught in the middle between the hawkish stance of the outgoing Bush administration and the reluctance of China and Russia to move towards stricter sanctions.

Climate action

On climate change too, the summit issued a joint call for a deal by 2009, while failing to bring Europe and America significantly closer.

The president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said fuel and food prices made it "even more urgent to find a global agreement" that would include China and India.

But while Mr Barroso called for EU and American leadership, Mr Bush suggested a deal by the end of his term was possible only if China and India took the lead.

That may not be a recipe for success, but US diplomats warn it will not get any easier under Mr Bush's successor.

A EU official agrees. He thinks "it will be easier to work with a new administration, but the best way not to lose illusions is not to have too many".

Yet whatever divides America and Europe, they remain the world's inevitable partners, united not just by history and values, but also daily trade worth $3bn.

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Sydney Morning HeraldBush begins last Europe tour hoping to keep pressure on Iran - 1 hr ago
Morning Call EU summit is Bush's first stop in Europe - 1 hr ago
KPIX-TV5 Busy Schedule For Bush On Last Europe Trip - 2 hrs ago Bush Pushes Europe to Toughen on Iran in Farewell Tour - 2 hrs ago
Miami HeraldEU summit is Bush's first stop in Europe - 2 hrs ago
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