U.S. President George Bush has arrived in
Estonia, the start of a trip to Europe and the Middle East that will focus
on conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. VOA White House Correspondent Scott
Stearns has the story from the Estonian capital Tallinn.
This is the first visit to Estonia by a U.S. president, and White House
officials say it will focus largely on common economic and security
America is Estonia's 11th largest trading partner and second only to
Russia among nations outside the European Union. Estonia has backed U.S.
military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq by contributing troops to both
conflicts. Its troops also serve in peacekeeping operations in Kosovo and
Mr. Bush begins his visit here Tuesday in talks with Estonian President
Toomas Hendrik Ilves. The two men will take questions from reporters
before having lunch at the Estonian National Opera House.
President Bush then flies to neighboring Latvia for a meeting with
President Vaira Vike-Freiberga. Mr. Bush will speak at an international
conference at the University of Latvia on the future of the NATO alliance
before a working dinner with NATO leaders.
The NATO summit is expected to be dominated by Afghanistan, where the
alliance has taken charge of the international force backing the
government of Hamid Karzai.
With 11 countries outside the NATO alliance participating in the Afghan
mission, President Bush wants a longer-term commitment from alliance
members to better integrate some non-NATO members into alliance planning.
At the Latvian summit, NATO leaders are expected to invite Japan,
Australia, South Korea, Sweden, and Finland to cooperate more closely on
training, including special operations forces.
Bush Administration officials say the president will also urge some
member states to increase their defense spending and loosen restrictions
on where their troops serve in Afghanistan and what functions they
Following Latvia, President Bush flies to Jordan for talks with Iraqi
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen
Hadley says the Bush Administration is not looking for what he calls a
"big, bold announcement" from those talks.
Instead, the two men will discuss a joint commission established to
speed the transfer of more responsibility to the Iraqi government and how
regional states can better support it.
Jordanian King Abdullah says strong action is needed to prevent a
further deterioration of security in the Middle East. In an American
television interview Sunday, he warned of three potential civil wars in
the Middle East - Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories.