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6/5/05

Bush Leaves For Europe, G8 Summit

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush on Tuesday embarked on his fourth trip to Europe this year, flying to Denmark to dine with royalty and say thanks to a wartime ally. He is scheduled to end his visit in Scotland, where rich nations will be asked to do more to ease poverty in Africa.

Bush and the other leaders are to hold three days of talks at the Group of Eight summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, where British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who set the agenda as this year's host, wants to achieve breakthroughs not only in African aid but also on climate change.

Bush and his wife, Laura, and daughter Jenna walked across the South Lawn on Tuesday morning to a helicopter waiting to whisk them to Air Force One. The first lady and Jenna are traveling to Africa after the Scotland summit to join the Bush's other daughter, Barbara, for about a week. Barbara has been involved in an AIDS project.

The summit follows Saturday's Live 8 concerts that featured hundreds of top musicians performing at free rock concerts in 10 cities around the world to raise awareness about Africa's plight and bring pressure on G8 leaders to act.

The leaders are expected to agree on billions of dollars in new support for Africa, the world's poorest continent.

Beyond Africa, Blair has made climate change a central issue of Britain's G8 presidency, describing it as "probably the most serious threat we face." He wants an agreement among G8 leaders on the scientific threat posed by global warming and the urgent need for action.

The United States is the only G8 country that has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. Bush declared last week on Danish television that meeting the Kyoto emission reduction targets would have "wrecked" the U.S. economy.

Environmentalists would like to see a strong statement on the issue coming out of the G8 meeting, even without Bush's concurrence.

French President Jacques Chirac on Sunday called for a statement to include specific mention of Kyoto, which took effect in February and obliges participating industrialized nations to reduce their combined greenhouse gas emissions.

Bush, in an interview with Britain's ITV television Monday, renewed his insistence that Washington would not sign Kyoto or any similar deals limiting gas emissions. Still, he described climate change as "a significant, long-term issue that we've got to deal with" and acknowledged that human activity is "to some extent" to blame.

"My hope is -- and I think the hope of Tony Blair is -- to move beyond the Kyoto debate and to collaborate on new technologies that will enable the United States and other countries to diversify away from fossil fuels so that the air will be cleaner and that we have the economic and national security that comes from less dependence on foreign sources of oil," Bush said.

On Tuesday, Bush will become only the second sitting U.S. president to visit Denmark, where he will express appreciation for the several hundred troops the Scandinavian nation has sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. Transatlantic relations and advancing freedom around the world also will be on Bush's agenda during talks Wednesday with Denmark's prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

"I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep on the soil of a friend," Bush said in an interview leading up to his first stay in the country. He lamented that security considerations would prevent him visiting with ordinary Danes. "It would be unfair to the people of Denmark if I tried to move around too much because the security would be quite inconvenient to them," he said.

Europeans are irked at Bush about the war in Iraq. Public opinion about the war has been slipping recently in the United States but has been the subject of much greater anti-war demonstrations in Europe.

"In defense of my policies, I did go to the United Nations, not only for Afghanistan, but for Iraq," Bush said in the interview with Danish Broadcasting Corp. "And we did work with allies and we did ask peoples' opinion. And we put a coalition together, of which your great country joined. And I'm thankful for your prime minister's tough decision."

After breakfast and a bilateral meeting Wednesday morning with Rasmussen, the president and Mrs. Bush will attend a luncheon hosted by the Queen Margrethe and her French-born husband, Prince Henrik.

In Scotland the rest of the week, Bush will join the leaders of Britain, Russia, France, Germany, Canada, Italy and Japan at a luxury hotel and golf resort in Gleneagles under heavy security.

Police braced for demonstrations away from the summit. On Monday in Edinburgh, helmeted police and officers on horseback stopped a march by about 300 black-clad anarchists and antiglobalization protesters as helicopters circled overhead. (Full story)

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