BERLIN – Iraq's effort to gain weapons of mass destruction will be high on the list of agenda items President Bush will discuss with German officials during his trip to Berlin, Secretary of State Colin Powell said.
"We are in constant discussion with our German friends about these nations that are pursuing these kinds of weapons and Iraq as one of the foremost advocates of obtaining this kind of ability," Powell said after Air Force One touched down at Berlin's Tegel International Airport Wednesday.
"For that reason it's important for us to stay in close consultation with Germans as to what we might be required to do both in a multilateral setting within the U.N. and with other ways to deal with this regime that shows total lack of responsibility with respect to the opinion of the world and the danger that it presents to the world."
Powell, accompanying Bush on a weeklong four-nation tour that began in Germany, said the agenda is heavy with military items, including the new U.S.-Russian strategic arms reduction framework, Russia's entry into NATO, assistance to the Balkans region, and the effort to support Afghanistan as it emerges from war that followed the oppressive Taliban regime and its support for the terrorist Al Qaeda network.
During the trip, the United States and Russia are to sign an accord to cut nuclear weapons stockpiles by two thirds, a deal Powell has worked on incessantly since Russian President Vladimir Putin and Bush announced the agreement last November.
Thousands of demonstrators — a sight Bush calls the mark of a thriving democracy — were outside Bush's hotel as he arrived in Berlin.
The president wants protesters to know that while the military campaign against terrorism has cut a hole in terror operations, European nations are as susceptible to attack as the United States.
"Even though we've had some initial successes, there's still danger for countries that embrace freedom, countries such as ours, or Germany, France, Russia or Italy," Bush said as he departed the White House Wednesday morning. "As an alliance, we must continue to fight against global terror. We've got to be tough."
Bush met Wednesday evening with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, and U.S. Ambassador Dan Coats at a coffee house at the site of the old Berlin Wall.
He shook hands in the cafe and received a polite round of applause from the selected group drinking coffee and beer. On Thursday, he will address the German Parliament to underscore the need for continued cooperation against terrorism.
Many Europeans have been skeptical of the U.S.-led war against terror, and are opposed to its expansion. A demonstration Wednesday in advance of the president's arrival looked more like a music festival with students baring much skin and blasting techno music as temperatures hit the 80's. More than 10,000 police officers were stationed near the Brandenberg Gate, near the Adlon Hotel where the president is scheduled to stay.
About 100,000 protesters demonstrated in Berlin Tuesday, carrying signs that read "War is terror — stop the global Bush fire" and "Pretzels instead of bombs," in reference to the January choking incident in which the president briefly passed out from a pretzel going down the wrong pipe.
Americans in Germany were warned by the U.S. Embassy in Berlin to use caution during the period of demonstrations.
The reaction in Germany is a far cry from the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, when some 200,000 Berliners gathered at the Berlin Wall to show solidarity with the United States. Many wore shirts or held signs proclaiming, "We are all New Yorkers," adopting the phrase of John F. Kennedy's 1963 "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a Berliner) speech in support of then-West Berlin, an outpost surrounded by communist East Germany.
Despite the public outcry, the German government has identified itself as a strong supporter of the United States and its effort to rid the world of terror despite some back benchers in the Bundestag complaining of a missionary zeal by the Bush administration to thwart terrorists.
"We have so many common interests — and we stand for common values — that occasional differences of opinion take second place," Schroeder said in an interview last weekend.
Powell said officials from both nations will discuss differences of opinion, not only in military terms, but on other issues as well.
"I think this is a trip in which we can celebrate all of the cooperative efforts weave been involved in as well as talk about other issues such as trade where there are disagreements, but disagreements we can work to resolve," he said. "I know the president is very excited about the prospect of meeting not only German leaders tomorrow but having an opportunity to meet members of the Bundestag and just to see Berlin.
On Tuesday, the president tried to quell the German public's anxiety by granting interviews to journalists from the European nations where he will be visiting. The remarks are the only comments to the press he has made since reporters started asking questions about intelligence failures to investigate alleged terrorists at U.S. flight schools.
Bush said that while he does not have military plans on his desk to expand the war on terror or to target Iraq, he is "looking at all options" on how to put an end to future attacks, including those that may originate from Iraq and could hurt U.S. allies such as Germany.
"Iraq ought to be on the minds of the German people, and they ought to be on the minds of the American people, because the Iraq government is a dangerous government," he said Tuesday. "This is a government that's gassed its own people, this is a government that is not transparent, and this is a government we know wants to develop weapons of mass destruction. They may have weapons of mass destruction; we just don't know.''
The comments came the same day that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told a Senate committee that the United States will inevitably be targeted by weapons of mass destruction by terrorists working in concert with rogue nations.
"We have to face up to the fact that we live in a world where our margin for error has become quite small. In just ... facing the facts, we have to recognize that terrorist networks have a relationship with terrorist states that have weapons of mass destruction, and that they inevitably are going to get their hands on them and would not hesitate one minute in using them," Rumsfeld told the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.
Asked about Russia, which is taking steps to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Bush said, "We want Russia, our partner now in fighting terrorism, to have the means to continue the fight."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.