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Bush bids farewell on worldwide tour

WASHINGTON — Winding down his second term, President Bush is beginning his farewell tour on the world stage trailed by questions about how much clout he still wields.

Unpopular abroad, as he is at home, Bush nevertheless has been a commanding presence among world leaders for the past seven years. Now, with fewer than 300 days left in his term, other presidents and prime ministers are looking beyond Bush to see who will occupy his chair a year from now.

It's an open question whether Bush's foreign policy priorities will be embraced by his successor in the Oval Office. Other world leaders have to calculate how far they should step out on the ledge with a president whose days are numbered and whose legacy had been darkened by the long and costly war in Iraq.

Bush leaves on Monday for the first in a series of global goodbye events. After a brief stop in Ukraine, he goes to Romania for his last summit with NATO leaders. A few days later, Bush will land in Sochi, Russia, for his probable final meeting with Vladimir Putin as Russian president; Putin's successor takes over in May.

Relations between Washington and Moscow have plummeted in recent years amid a welter of bitter disputes, and the talks in Sochi have raised hopes that Bush and Putin can lay the foundation for repairing ties.

In June, he will travel to Slovenia for his final summit with the European Union. He will attend his last summit of Group of Eight leaders of major industrial economies in Japan in July. He will go to Peru in November for his final meeting with Pacific Rim leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

More trips may be added as Bush moves closer to the exit and his successor emerges.

Around the world, there are hopes the next president will adopt a different style from what critics have called Bush's cowboy diplomacy and go-it-alone foreign policy.

"There seems to be a great deal of enthusiasm, particularly for (Barack) Obama but also Hillary (Rodham Clinton) on the other side of the Atlantic, that there's going to be some revitalization of the trans-Atlantic partnership and we start with a clean slate," said Julianne Smith, Europe program director for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

A change of leaders in Germany and France — which led the opposition to the war in Iraq — helped improve sour relations between Europe and the United States. But there still is some lingering ill will.


Busy travel year

This is the busiest travel year in President Bush's presidency in terms of the number of trips. He went

to the Middle East in January and to Africa in February. After he returns from NATO and Russia this week, he has five more major excursions on the books, from Europe to Asia, the Middle East to South America.

Bush bids farewell on worldwide tour 03/29/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 11:04am]
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