Tuesday, July 04, 2006

"Bush's Foreign Friends Fading Fast"

The Associated Press:

Most of the leaders who defied criticism at home to stand with him on Iraq and win his friendship are no longer players on the world stage, or are on their way out. And it was a small band of brothers to begin with.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he'll step down before the next national election and is coming under increasing pressure from his own party to do it sooner. Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi paid a farewell visit to the United States last week. He is leaving office in September.

Italy's Silvio Berlusconi resigned in early May after his party's election losses. Spain's Jose Maria Aznar was earlier forced out of office, the first casualty of supporting Bush on Iraq.
Newer leaders, particularly those in Europe, have seen the political penalties paid by those who stood too close to Bush -- and have been more reluctant to embrace him so openly. One exception is German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has visited the White House twice this year. She and Bush seemed to hit it off, even though they had some differences. Bush, en route to a summit of world leaders in Russia this month, will stop to see the old East Germany where Merkel grew up.

Goodwill that flowed to the United States right after the Sept. 11 attacks has long been offset by growing opposition to the war in Iraq and to Bush's foreign policy leadership, polls show.

A May poll by the Pew Research Center shows Bush's ratings and confidence in him to do the right thing on foreign affairs to be slipping ever lower in Europe -- even at a time of growing apparent consensus with European allies on efforts to restrict the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.

"Clearly the U.S. presence in Iraq is a drag on the image of the United States. It is cited more often than the current Iranian government as a threat to regional stability and world peace by many people in these countries," said Pew director Andrew Kohut.

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