In Paris on his final European tour, US President George W. Bush praised the closeness of US-European ties and called for continued collaboration in the fight against terrorism and other global issues.
Bush said US-European ties were broader and more vibrant than ever
In the speech, which was delivered shortly after his arrival in Paris on Friday, June 13, Bush told his audience at the headquarters of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), "Instead of dwelling on our differences, we are increasingly united in our interests and ideals."
Striking a note of reconciliation, he praised the leaders he has met with or would still meet on his Europe tour.
"In leaders like Berlusconi and Brown, Merkel and Sarkozy, I see a commitment to a powerful and purposeful Europe that advances the values of liberty within its borders and beyond," Bush said.
In a nod to the closely observed US presidential election campaign, Bush said he would bestow on his successor the "broadest and most vibrant" relationship the US and Europe have ever had.
Teamwork in war on terror
Aside from the niceties, Bush also addressed some of the global issues that have divided Europe and the US during his two terms as president.
Repeatedly comparing the current geopolitical situation with the Cold War era, Bush said that Europe must do more in the Middle East, help end the violence in Afghanistan and Iraq and hinder Iran's nuclear ambitions.
Bush met Chancellor Merkel earlier this week
"America and Europe are cooperating in the most solemn duty of all, to protect our citizens" from terrorists, he said.
Bush praised French leader Sarkozy -- sometimes dubbed "Sarkozy l'Américain" for his conservative stance -- for hosting Thursday's conference in which donors worldwide pledged $21.4 billion (14 billion euros) to the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan, and well as for France's commitment to send more troops to the country.
"In Afghanistan, we must stand with a brave new democracy fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban," he said. "Our nations must assure that Afghanistan is never again a safe haven for terrorists."
Putting in a pitch for Iran sanctions
With one of the main goals of the tour to bolster support for sanctions against Iran, Bush also called on Europe to support Washington's efforts to campaign against Iran's nuclear energy program.
"We must not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon," he said.
The president listed a number of other issues in which he saw the US and Europe playing major roles together, such as global warming, the struggle against HIV/AIDS and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The speech at the OECD was billed as a high point of Bush's European trip, which has already seen him travel to Slovenia, Germany and Italy.
Stroll through the papal gardens
Pope Benedict broke protocol by meeting Bush in the Vatican Garden
Before flying to Paris on Friday morning, Bush met Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican's medieval St. John's Tower and strolled through the Vatican Garden, which has been a place of quiet mediation for popes since the 13th century.
While papal audiences are normally held in the pontiff's private library, the "special protocol" Bush received came in response to the warm welcome the pope had during a visit to the US in April, said the Vatican.
The pope celebrated his 81st birthday at the White House on April 16 with a crowd of 13,500 well-wishers and a 21-gun salute.
Benedict and Bush discussed the Middle East peace process, the international food crisis and other global issues, the Vatican reported.
Bush and Sarkozy were scheduled to meet at the Elysee Palace for a private dinner Friday evening. Following continued talks Saturday morning in Paris, the American president will conclude his Europe tour this weekend with visits to London, where he will meet with Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Gordon Brown.