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Kerry urges repairing US-Europe ties

Visits UK, France after Mideast trip

LONDON -- Senator John F. Kerry, concluding a trip to Europe and the Middle East, called yesterday for a broader international coalition to stabilize Iraq, fight terrorism, and breathe new life into the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Kerry's two-day visit to Europe followed a two-week, fact-finding trip across the Middle East, where he met with American troops in Iraq and the leaders of Syria, Jordan, and Israel.

On Thursday, the former Democratic presidential candidate met with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany, and he held talks yesterday with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain about a Middle East peace summit Blair is organizing.

Then it was off to Paris to see President Jacques Chirac of France, where during dinner, Kerry conversed in English. Kerry later told reporters his French was ''too rusty."

One of the main topics of discussions with the European leaders was finding ways to repair relations between Europe and the United States that were battered over the Iraq war. The vast majority of Europeans opposed the US-led invasion.

''There's a lot of patching up to do" to heal the deep rift, Kerry said in a phone interview while en route to Paris. ''Now that the election is over, people realize these are very big issues still on the table."

When asked why he had come to Europe, Kerry, a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee, replied: ''I'm not claiming any mantle, just doing what I've done for 20 years as a senator. I want to fight for the things I talked about in the election. The issues haven't gone away."

Kerry's close affiliation with Europe -- his relatives in the French region of Brittany, education at a Swiss boarding school, and coming-of-age stories in Berlin as the son of a diplomat -- seemed to have been more of a liability than an asset in American politics.

But he remains popular in Europe, a fondness that was colorfully captured in a headline in the London-based tabloid the Daily Mirror the day after the election: ''How can 59,054,087 people be so dumb?"

Throughout the campaign, Kerry emphasized the need to repair the tattered trans-Atlantic alliance. The disagreements over Iraq, approaches to curbing climate change, and steel tariffs all contributed to an increasingly tense relationship between the United States and its European allies during President Bush's first term.

Yesterday, Kerry continued to stress the link between a strong alliance, the reinvigoration of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, achieving stability in Iraq, and coordinating the global fight against terrorism.

''I think it's very important for a host of issues to have a much better relationship" between Europe and the United States, Kerry said outside London's 10 Downing St., the prime minister's residence, after meeting with Blair. ''Clearly, that's something I fought for in the campaign and something I believe in, and I think it's imperative for the resolution of these difficult global issues."

Regarding Iraq, Kerry said: ''The key is not so much the elections, but what happens immediately after the elections. And the steps that are taken by the United States, by Great Britain, and others to broaden the coalition that has evolved, and to greatly accelerate the security, and to reduce the sense of American presence. All three of those have to happen simultaneously."

He also repeated criticisms of the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war.

''It's been made far more difficult as a result of mistakes that have been made over a long period," he said. ''The de-Ba'athification, the demilitarization, the lack of provisional services: all of those have contributed to our difficulties."

Michael Cox, a specialist in trans-Atlantic relations and a professor at the London School of Economics, said Kerry's focus on the trans-Atlantic relationship throughout the 2004 campaign and his foreign policy background meant that his opinion will continue to resonate in Europe. ''He's a senator, he won millions of American votes, and he did articulate a vision about the relationship between America and Europe," Cox said.

The Bush administration and European governments are now ''trying to repair some very damaged bridges," Cox said. ''But there is still a lot of residual resentment on both sides."

Next month, Bush is scheduled to travel to Europe on what the White House is billing as a diplomatic offensive aimed at mending fences.

Globe correspondent Sarah Liebowitz contributed to this report from London.

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