WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The European Union and the United States agreed on Monday that global warming is an “urgent” priority, and President George W. Bush conceded he must work to convince Russia of the need for a missile shield in Europe.
At a White House summit, Bush, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso also said they were firmly dedicated to reaching agreement on a global trade pact under the often-stalled Doha round of talks.
They kept up pressure on Iran to forswear nuclear weapons given Tehran’s refusal to stop uranium enrichment despite U.S.-EU pressure.
Bush said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s message to Iran, should she meet Iran’s foreign minister at a regional summit this week on Iraq in Egypt, would be to repeat the offer that Washington would join European talks with Iran if Tehran would suspend uranium enrichment.
It was Merkel’s first visit to Washington since she took over the rotating EU presidency, and she pushed global climate change in hopes of making it a big part of the agenda at a Group of Eight summit she is hosting in Germany in June.
At a joint news conference in the Rose Garden, the European side said it felt progress was made on the issue, despite an absence of concrete steps the EU and the United States can take together to address the problem.
“I really welcome the fact that there was progress in this meeting,” said Barroso. “We agree there’s a threat, there’s a very serious and global threat. We agree that there is a need to reduce emissions. We agree that we should work together.”
Bush, who critics charged was late to recognize climate change as a problem, made clear he felt any agreement between the United States and Europe would have a limited impact as long as developing countries like China are not included.
“The United States could shut our economy and emit no greenhouse gases, and all it would take is for China in about 18 months to produce as much as we had been producing” to make up the difference, he said.
But Merkel retorted that the developed world must lead the effort to reduce carbon emissions.
“If the developed countries with the best technologies do nothing, then it will be very tough to convince the others. Without convincing the others, worldwide CO2 emissions won’t go down,” she said.
The U.S. and EU leaders met against a backdrop of Russian criticism of U.S. plans to deploy a missile shield in Eastern Europe and a vow from Russian President Vladimir Putin to take “appropriate measures” to counter the system.
Bush said Merkel had previously expressed to him German and European concerns about the missile shield and that he should explain what he envisions to Putin.
As a result, Bush said he sent Defense Secretary Robert Gates to Moscow last week to meet Putin to offer Russia the opportunity to be included in a shield that Washington sees aimed at countering the threat of terrorist attack and not a resurrection of the Cold War.
“Therefore, we have started a dialogue...that hopefully will make explicit our intentions, and hopefully present an opportunity to share with the Russians, so that they don’t see us as an antagonistic force but see us as a friendly force,” Bush said.
Additional reporting by Noah Barkin, Tabassum Zakaria and Matt Spetalnick