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Bush hosts Danish prime minister at Texas ranch

Bush hosts Danish prime minister at Texas ranch

U.S. President George W. Bush began talks at his Texas ranch with the prime minister of Denmark _ a U.S. ally and partner in NATO's mission to combat resurgent Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan.
Bush and Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen were discussing NATO's changing role before of an alliance summit in April in Bucharest, Romania. The visit comes at a critical time, with the Bush administration pressing NATO members to send more troops to Afghanistan and better coordinate nonmilitary assistance.
"Welcome to the promised land," a smiling Bush said Friday as he welcomed Fogh Rasmussen to the ranch, a diplomatic coup for top U.S. allies and Bush's favorite foreign friends.
As Fogh Rasmussen and his wife Anne-Mette Rasmussen landed on a helipad at the Texas ranch, the U.S. president and first Lady Laura Bush pulled up in a white pickup truck. The president already was perspiring in the 70-plus degree temperatures when he shook hands with Fogh Rasmussen. After posing for photographs, the foursome drove off in the truck.
Fogh Rasmussen was staying three nights at the Texas ranch, and the two leaders were expected to go mountain biking at some point. They had pedaled around Camp David in 2006.
In their discussions, they planned to discuss both Afghanistan and Iraq, National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. Denmark is helping with both security and reconstruction in Afghanistan, and has been involved in Iraqi security efforts since 2003.
The wide-ranging talks would likely also touch on Middle East developments, Kosovo's declaration of independence, climate change and U.S. and Danish assistance to Africa, Johndroe told reporters at the White House.
Denmark has said it would oppose any debt relief for Sudan after the African nation's leader urged the Muslim world to boycott Danish goods because of a reprinted controversial cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad. Denmark, however, will not cut development aid to Sudan.
Bush met Friday with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer at the White House, before leaving along with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte for his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
In a speech, de Hoop Scheffer chided U.S. officials for publicly criticizing the contribution of other NATO members to the alliance's mission in Afghanistan. NATO's International Security Assistance Forces is 50,000-strong in Afghanistan, but commanders have asked for more combat troops, particularly for the country's south, where the insurgency is the most active.
American officials, including U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have vented frustration that the appeals have fallen flat. Gates has even warned of a fissure within the alliance over the issue.
"Clearly there is a perception on the part of some NATO allies that others are not pulling their weight," de Hoop Scheffer said in a speech Friday in Washington. "Notably here in the United States there is a palpable feeling that some European allies are underperforming in Afghanistan, that they are either unable or unwilling to make a greater effort.
"In my view, we simply cannot afford to play the blame game and can even less afford to play it publicly," the NATO chief said.
But he made clear that he believes the alliance must show more solidarity by eliminating the many restrictions _ or caveats, as they are known within NATO _ that some members have imposed on how and where their troops can be used in Afghanistan.
The United States has some 28,000 forces in Afghanistan _ both in the NATO-led mission and as part of a U.S.-led counterterrorism coalition _ and is sending another 3,200 Marines in April.
Denmark has about 360 troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led force, and about 500 supporting the U.S. commitment in Iraq.
There have been signs that France, under new President Nicolas Sarkozy, appears ready to answer the calls from the U.S. and other allies to step up in Afghanistan.


Updated : 2021-06-21 06:45 GMT+08:00