Rice Plans Post-Confirmation Trip

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Assuming Senate approval of her nomination as secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice (search) hopes to make an early February trip to Western Europe to meet with NATO (search) and European Union (search) officials, a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.

Now President Bush's national security adviser, Rice would make the trip ahead of Bush's own visit to Europe, designed to improve U.S. relations frayed by the war in Iraq (search). France and Germany led opposition in Europe to the invasion that toppled Iraq President Saddam Hussein.

The key stop Rice hopes to make is in Brussels where she would meet with NATO and European Union officials, said the U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity. Iraq, assistance to tsunami victims and strife in the Sudanese region of Darfur would be on Rice's agenda, the official said.

Rice seems headed for easy Senate confirmation to succeed Colin Powell. But with Senate action on her nomination still pending, the official said travel announcements and other plans were being held in abeyance.

Bush plans to confer with NATO and European leaders in Brussels Feb. 22 and stop in Germany the next day to meet with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Then, on Feb. 24, he has a meeting lined up with Russian President Vladimir Putin (search), also an opponent of the Iraq war, in Slovakia.

Bush also is expected to address the European Parliament (search) in Strasbourg, France.

The trip will be the president's first abroad after his inauguration for a second term on Jan. 20.