Bush vows respect for rights

George Bush has opened a summit with the 25-nation European Union that is expected to show the two sides closing ranks over respecting human rights while fighting terrorism.

    Bush will tell EU leaders he is committed to human rights

    Bush is set to pledge at the summit in Vienna on Wednesday that the United States will respect human rights in his "war on terror", according to the draft of a final summit statement.

    The US and EU appear to be keen to find common ground on a number of issues and improve their relationship after divisions over the decision to go to war in Iraq.

    Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, in comments published before the meeting, stressed the need to protect civil liberties, saying the West otherwise risked "losing our souls" in its global anti-terror battle.

    "We believe that the moral ground that we have in fighting terrorism should not be changed by any kind of vacuum or break in the respect of human rights," he told the Financial Times Deutschland newspaper.

    The final statement draft says: "Consistent with our common values, we will ensure that measures taken to combat terrorism comply fully with our international obligations, including human rights law, refugee law and international humanitarian law."

    The commitment to human rights follows EU criticism of the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay on Cuban soil after three inmates hanged themselves on June 10.

    On Tuesday, Wolfgang Schessel, chancellor of Austria, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, said of Guantana

    mo: "We can't have an area where law does not apply."

    In-depth dialogue

    Barroso stressed the need to
    protect civil liberties

    An extract of the draft statement says: "We attach great importance to our ongoing in-depth dialogue and our common fight against terrorism and our respected domestic and international legal obligations."

    The alleged existence of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe, where suspected terrorists were reportedly interrogated and possibly tortured, and accusations of CIA flights carrying prisoners through several European countries, will be raised by the EU presidency.

    Washington says that all CIA flights are in accordance with US and other nations' laws, particularly those against torture.

    Stephen Hadley, a White House national security adviser, said in Washington last week that the EU-US summit was "an opportunity to reaffirm the strong relationship between the United States and the European Union".

    Iran, climate change

    Stephen Hadley, the US national security adviser, told reporters that the Vienna talks were not expected to cover the Iran nuclear issue, since the United States and the EU had already agreed on a stance calling on Tehran to give up its nuclear fuel work.

    Many Austrians have made clear
    their displeasure with Bush's visit

    But talks will address the contentious issue of climate change.

    The US has angered European leaders by refusing to sign the Kyoto Protocol on reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

    The draft statement says: "We will work more closely to address the serious and long-term challenge of climate change, biodiversity loss and air pollution and will act with resolve and urgency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

    Trade between the EU and US is worth $1.7 billion per day and so will be a major item on the agenda.

    Bush hopes European leaders will improve their offer to cut protection for farmers to help bring about a breakthrough in the stalled World Trade Organisation talks, a White House official said on Tuesday.

    The leaders of major governments such as Britain, France and Germany are not due to attend the summit.

    Heavy security

    Security is tight for the first visit in 27 years to Austria by a US president.

    Nearly 3,000 police officers have been deployed in Vienna, including about 1,000 to focus solely on protests against the visit.

    Security was tight in Vienna

    US and Austrian authorities have cordoned off parks and squares around the Hofburg and warned protesters they will not be allowed near the meeting venue.

    A police bomb squad used a remote-control robot to blow up abandoned suitcases and other suspicious packages, including one that had been taped to an electricity junction box and had wires and an antenna sticking out of it, officials said.

    Experts found no signs of explosives.

    Bush will travel on to Budapest on Thursday to attend a series of ceremonies to mark the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian uprising against Soviet-led communist rule.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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