The State Department will work with public and private groups to expand America's cultural exchanges abroad in an effort to strengthen the United States' international ties.

Announcing the initiative Monday, first lady Laura Bush said the Global Cultural Initiative will connect American artists and art forms, such as literature, with international audiences. This will be brought about through partnerships with the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Film Institute and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

"One of the best ways we can deepen our friendships with the people of all countries is for us to better understand each other's cultures, by enjoying each other's literature, music, films and visual arts," Bush told a crowd at the White House that included public officials and leaders in the arts community.

The initiative will bring educators from abroad to the United States for visits to national landmarks, allow American and foreign filmmakers to show their films to each other's audiences and provide performance arts training among other projects and events.

"Arts and culture can play a vital role in helping achieve our strategic public diplomacy goals," said Karen Hughes, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy.

Hughes said those goals include nurturing a sense of common interests and values between Americans and people of other countries.

"Our final objective is to highlight the differences between most civilized people of all nations and faiths and the violent extremists that we face in the war against terror," Hughes said. "As we do so, the value and appreciation we place on art, culture and history stands in marked contrast to the extremists' destruction of precious treasures from the Golden Mosque of Samarra, Iraq, to the bombing of Buddhas and other cultural icons of Afghanistan."