President Bush began his five-day fence mending trip to by giving a keynote speech on Monday stressing the importance of transatlantic ties, urging European unity and commitment to issues in the Middle East.

President Chirac, when asked by reporters earlier about how he felt towards President Bush said that he was looking forward to a new start in French-Anglo relations and 'a more regular dialogue'.

But an expert on transatlantic relations at the French Institute of International Relations, Professor Guillaume Parmentier, told Aljazeera.net that he was sceptical of any major change in relations.

"Monday's dinner will be about mood. It won't be very substantial"

Guillaume Parmentier, French Institute of International Relations

"Monday's dinner will be about mood. It won't be very substantial - summits rarely are - but it will be a way of taking the temperature and seeing if they can work together again," Parmentier said.

"It is an extremely difficult relationship. Chirac thinks Bush is superficial. Bush thinks Chirac is unprincipled and too wily for his own good," he added.

The two leaders have seen each other several times since the start of Bush's first term, but on no occasion could the encounter be described as warm. 

Training judges

In a seperate development, the European Union agreed on Monday to train up to 770 Iraqi judges, police and prison officials in a goodwill gesture to the United States.
 
The training programme is to take place in EU states or in the region but not in Iraq, EU foreign ministers said after regular talks, a day ahead of EU summit talks with Bush in Brussels tommorow.

The EU offer will aim to bolster the rule of law and human rights in Iraq and will have a budget of 10 million euros.

The EU has already provided 320 million euros for aid and reconstruction with further plans to inject 200 million euros later this year.