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Rumsfeld mends fences in Europe

MUNICH, Germany—Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld turned conciliatory toward European defense leaders Saturday, lauding America's "enduring relationship" with Europe and urging joint efforts to defeat terrorism and discourage weapons proliferation, especially in Iran.

Rumsfeld even joked about his derision of France and Germany two years ago when, responding to their resistance to a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, he dismissed them as "old Europe."

"That was old Rumsfeld," he joked Saturday, drawing laughter that he would not have gotten even a year ago at the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy. Sprinkled among the 250 military brass and defense officials attending were U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"Our collective security depends on our cooperation and mutual respect and understanding," Rumsfeld told them. He singled out for praise France and Germany for arresting alleged Islamic extremists last month.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana accepted Rumsfeld's olive branch. "Many things of the past are over, and we have opened up a new relationship, which is good," he said.

Iraq's election, and Afghanistan's, were broadly lauded, as was the resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Throughout the day, participants spoke of the "historic opportunity" to build a new nation in the Palestinian territory and hope for a lasting peace to follow.

One participant noted the need for bold action, and suggested a $6 billion reconstruction fund for the Palestinians to help make it work. At that, someone else noted, "To raise that kind of money, we might need a Mediterranean tsunami."

There were tense moments, however. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., criticized Iran sharply for being longtime sponsors of terror and for pursuing nuclear weapons.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Gholamali Khoshroo responded that the deep divisions between Iran and the United States stem from the Iranian revolution in the 1970s. He said Iran had done everything required by the United Nations to prove that it was not manufacturing nuclear weapons. "Everyone seems to be happy with this news, besides America," he said.

Earlier in the day, Rumsfeld spoke of the satisfaction he'd found in visiting Iraq this week for the first time since the Jan. 30 elections. "The Iraqi people are proud of their accomplishment, as well they should be," he said. "Even after a suicide bomb went off at a polling station, Iraqis came to vote. Across the country, voters arrived on crutches and in donkey carts, passing by posters that threatened: `You vote, you die.'"

In referring to arrests of alleged terrorists in France and Germany, he added: "These efforts require the contributions of many governments and all elements of national power," he said.


(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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