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Bush, EU Leaders Disagree Over Global Warming Policy

Europeans Would Realize Kyoto Treaty Without U.S.

By Dana Milbank and Keith B. Richburg
THE WASHINGTON POST -- President Bush and leaders of the 15 European Union countries clashed sharply Thursday over global warming policy, with the Europeans saying they would move to implement the Kyoto climate treaty without the United States.

“We say we agree to disagree,” Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson said while sharing a platform with a grim-faced Bush, following a summit in this seaside city. “The European Union will stick to the Kyoto Protocol and go for a ratification process. The U.S. has chosen another policy.”

Bush reiterated his objections to the treaty, but said: “We do agree that climate change is a serious issue and we must work together. We agree that climate change requires a global response, and agree to intensify cooperation on science and technology.”

The two sides issued a communique emphasizing common positions on free trade, helping Africa with its AIDS crisis and peacekeeping in the Balkans. Bush reiterated his pledge that U.S. troops in the Balkans would not return home before the European soldiers there do. The communique said the United States and EU would seek to launch a new round of multilateral trade negotiations at a November meeting of the World Trade Organization in Doha, Qatar.

After the meeting, however, some Europeans expressed complaints about American protectionism in Bush’s recent moves to defend the U.S. steel industry. And others were miffed by a call from Bush for expansion of the EU as well as the NATO military alliance. “I strongly believe in NATO expansion, and I believe that the EU ought to expand, as well,” Bush said.

The EU has plans to expand, but European leaders are sensitive about having policy dictated by the United States. Chris Patten, EU commissioner for external affairs, suggested after Bush’s remarks that because the United States isn’t an EU member, it wasn’t the Americans’ concern. “I don’t imagine for one moment the United States intends to overlook that rather important consideration,” Patten said. An American official called the complaint “odd.”

Bush, who was forceful and buoyant Wednesday, seemed tentative and halting Thursday. At one point, he said that “Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease.” While discussing expansion of NATO and the EU, he said there ought to be “more countries” in Europe.

Some Europeans said that despite the disagreements, they were more impressed by Bush in private meetings than negative accounts had led them to expect. One European diplomat said Bush appeared more willing to listen to various viewpoints, even though he seemed tentative in his public comments.

“He has this way of talking that makes you wonder whether he has difficulty talking, or he doesn’t fully grasp the issues,” said this diplomat, after sitting through Bush’s press conference.

Bush’s appearance here attracted about 10,000 protesters, a larger crowd than normally appears for EU summits, which bring together the heads of the 15 member countries. The meeting this time took place in Sweden because the country holds the EU’s six-month rotating presidency.