Bush Urges Support for Iraq and Afghanistan, Defends Guantanamo
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 21, 2006 President Bush urged European leaders today to put past differences regarding Iraq aside and to look at how they can help its new democratically elected government succeed.
The president, speaking at Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria, also defended the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He told the European leaders he, too, wishes it could be closed, but that he can't release "cold-blooded killers" or people whose lives would be at risk if he did.
The success of the new governments in both Iraq and Afghanistan depends on continued support by the United States and the European Union, Bush said during a press availability with Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
"I've always believed that when America and the EU work together, we can accomplish big deeds," he said. "And this world needs us to work together, because there (are) a lot of challenges."
The president acknowledged differences of opinion over Iraq. "But what's past is past, and what's ahead is a hopeful democracy in the Middle East," he said.
He thanked Schuessel and Barroso for their leadership in helping Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's new government. "I believe the Maliki government is going to succeed," Bush told them. "I know the government needs our help, and the European Union has stood up to help, and I can't thank you enough for that."
The president also called the EU, and Austria in particular, "a vital part of helping solve the issue of the Balkans."
"Aspirations to the EU cause people to adopt the habits necessary for there to be a democracy and peace," he said. "And so we're very strongly supportive of the EU's role in the Balkans and applaud your strong role, as well, Mr. Chancellor (Schuessel)."
Bush turned to the issue of Guantanamo Bay, acknowledging concerns among some European leaders and saying that he shares their desire to see the detainees sent home and the facility closed. But the issue isn't as clear-cut as it may seem, he said.
Some of the detainees who have been determined not to pose a risk could be in danger if they're released, the president said. "I explained to the two leaders here our desires to send them back," most of them to Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Yemen, Bush said. "Of course, there's international pressure not to send them back. But hopefully, we'll be able to resolve that when they go back to their country."
Other detainees are "cold-blooded killers" who will kill again if released, he said. These prisoners need to be tried in U.S. courts, and Bush said he's waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to determine the proper venue to take them to trial.
"I understand the concerns of the leaders. They expressed the concerns of the European leaders and the European people about what Guantanamo says," Bush said.
"I also shared with them my deep desire to end this program. But I assured them that ... I'm not going to let people out on the street that will do you harm. So we're working through the issue," he said.