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Bush Looking to Close Rifts With Allies

President Bush is looking at his upcoming trips to Europe and an international economic summit in Georgia as opportunities to mend fences with allies over Iraq and to promote the spread of democracy in the Middle East.

"It's important for our partners to understand that I don't view it as American democracy, nor do I think it's going to happen overnight," Bush said Tuesday. "I will remind them that the Articles of Confederation was a rather bumpy period for American democracy," he said, referring to America's formative period.

The president is also expected to use the meetings to discuss with fellow Security Council (search) members a new U.N. resolution dealing with post-occupation Iraq.

Bush leaves Thursday on a trip that will take him to Rome and Paris and then to Normandy, France, to participate in ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of D-Day (search). He then joins seven other leaders for the annual Group of Eight summit of industrial democracies, being held this year on Sea Island, Ga.

The trip comes amid warming relations between Bush and two of his sharpest Iraq war critics - French President Jacques Chirac (search) and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (search).

Bush has reached out to both by phone over the past few weeks. He plans to meet with Chirac in Paris on Saturday, and will have a chance to see Schroeder both at the D-Day memorial Sunday and at the G-8 summit.

Schroeder is the first German chancellor invited to attend the once-a-decade D-Day ceremonies. Russian President Vladimir Putin will also be there as the first Russian leader to participate.

U.S. officials credited part of the warming of relations to the formation of a new civilian interim government in Iraq, with the United Nations playing a significant role in the process.

Also, the administration has all but given up on attempting to pressure other nations to send more peacekeeping troops to Iraq after there were few takers.

Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser, said she sensed "a fundamental understanding that whatever differences we had in the past, that a free and prosperous and stable Iraq is a linchpin and a key to a stable Middle East is understood and that people are looking for ways that they can help to get that done," she said.

Bush is flying first to Italy, where he will attend ceremonies Friday marking the liberation of Rome by allied forces during World War II. He will also meet with Pope John Paul II and with Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi - a key European ally on Iraq.

The president is going to Paris on Saturday to meet with Chirac, and will join other world leaders in Normandy on Sunday to observe the anniversary of the June 6, 1944, landing that led to the liberation of France and the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Bush, Chirac, Berlusconi, Schroeder, Putin, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin will then fly to Georgia for next week's economic summit, to be joined by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

Also planning to attend the G-8 summit as guest observers, at Bush's invitation, is Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a group of Middle Eastern leaders. Bush hinted Tuesday that a leader from the new Iraqi interim government might also attend.

Bush told reporters he would try to persuade allies of "the need for us to understand that democracy can take hold in the Middle East."

Bush intends to discuss the same topics in a commencement speech Wednesday to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

"I'm going to talk about the war on terror, the clash of ideology. Part of winning the war on terror is to spread freedom and democracy in the Middle East," Bush said.

Kenneth M. Pollack, director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, said it's still too early to know how the Iraqi people will view the new 33-member cabinet named Monday as Iraq's new interim government.

But the fact that U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi played a major role in the selection process and endorsed the new government "will be helpful with the Europeans" for Bush, Pollack said.