Bush Gets Warm Welcome From Allies

A humble but firm President Bush may not have moved any European leaders into the pro-missile shield camp, but he warmed many of them to his personality.

"I ask for your understanding ... I ask for your trust ... I ask you to help me," Bush told the gathering. Still, he remained tough: "I am firmly committed to missile defense."

Though much of Europe opposes Bush's proposed missile defense shield, leaders were largely conciliatory in their speech following the meeting of NATO leaders in Brussels, Belgium.

Bush is "right to be happy with the results of this summit," said Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Berlusconi, himself head of government for only 48 hours, said there were nuances of opinion among the allies on missile defense, "but not a real attitude of rejection."

The United States fears that one day an unpredictable state such as North Korea, Iran or Iraq will launch a ballistic missile carrying a weapon of mass destruction into the U.S. or other allied territory. Bush wants a system that will shoot these missiles down.

Some of the allies don't share Washington's view of the threat. Others think the solution should be political rather than military. And still others worry that abandoning the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union would be detrimental to overall European security.

"We agreed that it is necessary for a new, innovative approach in our policies to do with these new threats. I didn't see any insurmountable differences," Berlusconi said.

Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, also spoke in soft, round tones.

"There are highly unstable states developing nuclear arsenals and we have to look at all ways, including missile defense systems, of countering that threat," Blair told reporters.

The most important thing, however, "is that Europe and America should always stick together," he said. "Of course there will be areas where we need intensive negotiations, like nuclear defense, but the world is a more secure and more stable place if Europe and America are together."

The French took what was probably the toughest line. But even President Jacques Chirac, who has serious doubts about abandoning the ABM treaty and insists on stepped-up action to combat proliferation, tempered his skepticism, saying France is ready to participate fully in the discussions about missile defense.

Some of the allies do agree with the United States on many points. Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit of Turkey, the only NATO member that borders on one of the so-called "rogue nations" around which Bush has built his missile-defense rationale, said any defensive shield should be developed in a "positive spirit."

President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland, one of NATO's newest members, called missile defense "visionary, courageous and a logical idea."

"There is some nervousness," Bush acknowledged. "I understand that, but it's beginning to be allayed when they hear the logic behind the rationale."

Two officials present in the conference room said Bush was confident and forceful.

The American president suffers from a sometimes unkindly press that has, from time to time, portrayed him as a bumbling, misspoken politician who has trouble with big words and people's names and is not intellectually up to the job.

The 18 other NATO leaders here got a different picture, one allied official said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report