Posted: 5/9/2003 5:55:30 AM EST
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[url=http://www.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/05/08/sprj.irq.bush.reut/index.html]White House favors flow for Iraq war allies[/url]
'America's best friends and allies'
Thursday, May 8, 2003 Posted: 6:38 PM EDT (2238 GMT)
President Bush welcomes foreign ministers of the seven eastern European nations preparing to join NATO, during remarks at the White House on Thursday.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- White House favors flowed freely Thursday to countries who stood with the United States on Iraq even as President Bush sought U.N. cooperation from war opponents France, Germany and Russia.
As he prepares for another showdown at the United Nations over lifting sanctions and other U.S. goals for postwar Iraq, Bush courted members of the so-called "coalition of the willing" who lent military, political or moral support to the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
From breakfast with Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, to lunch with the Emir of Qatar, who offered U.S. troops a base in his country, and a mid-afternoon East Room ceremony with seven Eastern European foreign ministers, Bush paid tribute to his Iraq supporters.
In between, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer announced that "good and reliable ally" President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines would be treated to a State Dinner on May 19, just the third of Bush's presidency.
He also said Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had been invited to the U.S. president's Texas ranch for an overnight stay on May 22.
"It's been a busy day on the foreign policy front, welcoming to the White House several of America's best friends and allies throughout the world," Fleischer said.
Conspicuously absent was contact with America's older and more traditional allies like France and Germany who actively opposed the invasion of Iraq. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom Bush befriended early in his term, has fallen out of favor because of his opposition.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher suggested that Washington was not yet ready to bury the hatchet, saying: "I expect that we'll all gauge our behavior according to what's happened in the past and according to how we can cooperate in the future."
'Right and wrong'
Asked about the emphasis on new U.S. allies, Fleischer sank the blade a little deeper, reminding reporters of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's visit on Wednesday and Bush's frequent talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Prime Minister John Howard of Australia, who sent 2,000 troops to Iraq, spent last weekend at the president's ranch where Bush dubbed him "a man of steel" and an honorary Texan.
All 15 U.N. Security Council members backed a threat of tough action against Iraq over its weapons programs last year, but Bush was unable to win a majority of nations in the council to back his decision to go to war.
The White House has, however, played up its "coalition of the willing" that backed war. "What you are seeing here is a real numerical reminder of how the world agreed with the United States and how few countries disagreed with the United States," Fleischer said.
Although Bush counted in his coalition tiny countries like Tonga, Fleischer declared: "You don't measure right and wrong by a nation's GDP (gross domestic product), you measure it by the decisions they make to defend freedom."
The White House is putting pressure on France, Germany and Russia to support its proposal to lift U.N. sanctions on Iraq, which would give Washington and its allies the power to spend Iraq's oil money to help the Iraqi people.
A draft resolution to be introduced at the U.N. on Friday would remove all sanctions imposed on Iraq in 1990 except for an arms embargo. France and Russia have made clear that they are reluctant to completely lift the sanctions against Iraq until they are certain it has no weapons of mass destruction.
Fleischer said he thought their opposition had been overstated. "We are in a different era and a different environment in the United Nations," he said. "I don't think that some of these nations want to repeat the mistakes that some of them made in the past."
Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved.
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