ROME – President Bush is urging Europe to work with the United States on matters that extend beyond their trans-Atlantic ties, such as securing Mideast peace, curtailing the rise of radical Islamic terrorists and keeping regimes such as Iran in check.
"Instead of dwelling on our differences, we are increasingly united in our interests and ideals," Bush was to say in a speech Friday in Paris. "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."
The White House released a portion of Bush's remarks on Thursday, while the president was still in Rome. He is on a weeklong European trip, where he is meeting with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
On his visit here, Bush was getting a hearty welcome from the charismatic Berlusconi, his old friend, and Pope Benedict XVI, who will see Bush on Friday.
On the streets, however, anti-Bush sentiment over the war in Iraq still lingers. Anti-war activists and hundreds of other demonstrators marched through the Italian capital on Wednesday as Bush arrived.
Bush also plans to see Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle and go to Belfast, Northern Ireland on this trip, which began at the U.S.-European Union summit in Slovenia.
In his speech to be delivered in France, Bush is acknowledging that Europeans are keenly interested in who will succeed him in the Oval Office.
"When the time comes to welcome a new American president next January, I will be pleased to report to him that the relationship between the United States and Europe is the broadest and most vibrant it has ever been," Bush said.
The White House has billed the Paris speech at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development as the centerpiece of the trip, as a way for the president to lay out his view that relations between the United States and Europe are now in a "new era."
In Rome, security is extremely tight for Bush's two-day stay. Commercial flights have been banned over the city. Dozens of buses and trams have been rerouted. Thousands of policemen have been deployed as part of a plan to monitor any further protests, though Wednesday's march drew far fewer demonstrators than previous visits by Bush.
Unlike other European leaders, such as former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and former French President Jacques Chirac, Berlusconi supported Bush on Iraq from the start. The 71-year-old media mogul defied domestic opposition and dispatched about 3,000 troops to Iraq after the fall of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Those troops came home, and Berlusconi, recently elected to his third stint in power since 1994, has pledged not to send any back.
More than 2,000 Italian troops, however, are deployed as part of the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan.
Italy, along with Germany, France and Spain, have restricted their troops to less dangerous areas in northern Afghanistan. That has caused a rift because other NATO members are deployed in the more violent regions of the nation. The Italian government is reviewing the restrictions and Berlusconi's office said the premier would talk to Bush about that when they meet.
Bush's wife, first lady Laura Bush, on Wednesday pledged $10.2 billion on behalf of the United States to Afghanistan's reconstruction. She spoke at an international donors conference in Paris.
Berlusconi and Bush also were expected to discuss Italy's interest in joining with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany that are making a diplomatic push to get Iran to give up what the West believes is an effort to develop nuclear weapons.
The president hasn't decided whether adding Italy would be helpful, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said Thursday.
He said the U.S. and its partners in the diplomatic effort on Iran expect that Tehran will respond quickly to the latest incentive package aimed at getting Iran to stop its enrichment program. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has already ruled out accepting the package.
"We'll see what happens," Hadley said. "But I think you've heard a number of countries are getting ready and doing the internal processes required that, should that package be rejected — and a number of people believe it will — we are ready to go to continue the sanctions effort."
Bush began his day by chatting with entrepreneurs at the elegant, hillside Villa Aurelia, part of the American Academy in Rome. He later met with Italian President Georgio Napolitano at Quirinale Palace, situated atop the highest hill in Rome.