US President Bush said he was confident his successor would inherit "the broadest and most vibrant" transatlantic ties ever as he meets Pope Benedict XVI in Italy and President Sarkozy in France on Friday.
Bush has spoken of a "new era" in transatlantic ties
In excerpts of a speech released by the White House that US President George W Bush is to give in Paris on Saturday, June 14, the US leader said transatlantic ties had been revitalized.
"When the time comes to welcome a new American President next January, I will be pleased to report to him that the relationship between the United States and Europe is the broadest and most vibrant it has ever been," Bush said.
On Saturday, Bush delivers the keynote address of his tour at the Paris headquarters of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, emphasizing the need for US-European unity rather than a focus on disputes over climate change, Afghanistan and ways to address terrorism.
Bush hails a "new era"
The US leader said he had seen the shape of a "new era" of "a revitalized relationship between Europe and America" in leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Ministers Gordon Brown of Britain and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy.
"I see a commitment to a powerful and purposeful Europe that advances the values of liberty within its borders, and beyond," Bush said. "The rise of free and prosperous societies in the broader Middle East is essential to peace in the 21st century, just as the rise of a free and prosperous Europe was essential to peace in the 20th century," he said.
"Europe and America must stand with reformers, democratic leaders, and millions of ordinary people across the Middle East who seek a future of hope, liberty, and peace in Afghanistan, Lebanon, the Holy Land, Iran and Syria -- and Iraq," he added.
The US president is to see Pope Benedict XVI on Friday before traveling to France.
Bush's week-long trip has been aimed at bolstering unity among skeptical European allies for the war in Afghanistan and rebuilding efforts in Iraq.
"We must go forward with unity. Dividing democracies is one of our enemies' goals and they must not be allowed to succeed," the said.
Sarkozy seen as an ally
Bush and Sarkozy enjoy a friendly relationship
While Sarkozy is a critic of many aspects of US foreign policy, the relationship between the two men is much friendlier than that of Bush and Sarkozy's predecessor, Jacques Chirac. Chirac opposed the war in Iraq and clashed with Bush over climate change and other matters.
Sarkozy, by contrast, has promised that the United States "can count on our friendship," while maintaining his right to differ from Bush on issues such as Iraq.
In an interview broadcast on French television on Thursday, Bush spoke of Sarkozy as his "friend" and noted the "excellent" relations between France and the United States, which have enjoyed a significant upswing since Sarkozy's election in May last year.
Bush has been intent on having a friendlier relationship with Sarkozy, inviting him to a barbecue at the family seaside home in Kennebunkport, Maine, last summer.
"He's bringing a good brain, good vision and goodwill," Bush said not long after Sarkozy was elected to office.
Stealing Bush's thunder
While Bush spent Thursday in Rome with conservative ally Berlusconi, his wife Laura was in Paris making a $10.2 billion US government commitment to help with reconstruction in Afghanistan. The donation still needs congressional approval.
The US help was announced at an international conference in the French capital which was being held to drum up support for vital improvements to the country.
"Afghanistan has reached a decisive moment for its future. We must not turn our backs," Laura Bush said.