Bush in Italy for Berlusconi Talks, Meeting with PopeBy Paula Wolfson
11 June 2008
U.S. President George Bush is in Italy for talks with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi Thursday and a meeting with Pope Benedict Friday. From Rome, VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson has details.
President Bush arrives at Ciampino International Airport in Rome, 11 Jun 2008Once again, Iran is likely to play a prominent role in the president's discussions on what has been called his farewell tour of Western Europe.
Italy has been pushing to become part of a group of negotiators with Iran that includes the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany.
White House officials say they will listen to what Italy's leaders have to say, but say the German government insists the current format should stay. They also note that Italy has a trading relationship with Iran, and will be a key player if and when the time comes to increase sanctions on Tehran.
On Wednesday, Mr. Bush discussed different aspects of the Iran crisis with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
President George W. Bush and Chancellor Angela Merkel address the media after meeting at German government's guest house at Meseberg, 11 Jun 2008 Speaking to reporters after their talks at a castle just outside Berlin, the president stressed he wants to see a peaceful resolution of the dispute over Iran's nuclear intentions. But he made clear the use of military force remains a last resort.
"I told the chancellor my first choice, of course, is to solve this diplomatically," said President Bush. "All options are on the table. But the first choice is to solve this problem by working closely together, by sending a dual message, which has been the consistent policy of this administration, that if you verifiably suspend your enrichment programs you'll end your isolation, and there's a way forward for you."
At the session with reporters, the president was also asked if he regrets his decision to invade Iraq. He said no, but repeated the comments quoted in a British newspaper - that he wishes he had chosen his words more carefully when making the case for war.
"I don't regret it at all. said President Bush. "Removing Saddam Hussein made the world a safer place. And yes, I told the guy -- the guy said, now what could you do over? First of all, you don't get to do things over in my line of work. But I could have used better rhetoric."
The Iraq war has been very unpopular here in Italy, and there have been demonstrations against President Bush every time he has visited Rome since the conflict began. Anti-war protesters have announced plans to take to the streets during his current stay, and 10,000 extra police are on duty throughout the Italian capital.