Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Italian leader praises Bush's vision, courage

President Bush and Gen. Rolando Mosca Moschini review an honor guard at Rome’s Quirinale presidential palace Thursday.

Associated Press

President Bush and Gen. Rolando Mosca Moschini review an honor guard at Rome’s Quirinale presidential palace Thursday.

ROME — If there was any doubt about which current European leader is closest to President Bush, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi erased it on Thursday.

Appearing with Bush at a news conference held in a breathtaking Renaissance villa overlooking the Eternal City, the garrulous Berlusconi called Bush a "personal friend," and a "very unique person" and praised his "vision" and "courage."

Berlusconi also offered to help in efforts to stop Iran from pursuing a uranium enrichment program and, Bush said, cleared the way for Italian troops in Afghanistan to operate in areas with the heaviest fighting.

Berlusconi even made the unusual suggestion that Bush could be a visiting professor at a new Italian school to be called "The University of Liberal Thinking."

Bush did not respond to that idea, but returned the kind words. "We're good friends, and I appreciate that very much," he said.

Bush's visit with Berlusconi was part of his third stop on an eight-day farewell European trip, which will continue this morning with his third visit with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. Bush met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier in the week and will also see French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The Europeans in the group have been part of a notable warming in the transatlantic relationship during Bush's second term, a trend Bush is expected to cite in a speech scheduled for tonight in Paris.

Bush's personal image remains dismal in Western Europe, though. Those expressing confidence in him ranged from 16 percent in Britain to 8 percent in Spain, according to a global Pew Research Center poll released Thursday. The sour feelings were expressed on the streets of Rome as Bush arrived Wednesday, though demonstrators showed up in much smaller numbers than during the president's previous visits.

Berlusconi, the media baron and financier who was returned to office in May after losing power in 2006, has been one of Bush's staunchest allies on the world stage. He was the first European leader to back the Iraq war and has unabashedly stood by a U.S. president who has remained consistently unpopular among the Italian public.

Bush said Berlusconi had assured him that Italy had removed "caveats" that had restricted the use of Italian troops in the areas of Afghanistan with the heaviest fighting against the Taliban. Italy's previous resistance to sending any of its 2,700 troops in Afghanistan to those areas has prompted complaints from NATO and the United States.

Berlusconi also repeated his offer to join a six-nation group that is conducting talks with Iran, noting Italy's large commercial ties with that country.

Bush said only that he "would seriously consider it." Other nations in the group, notably Germany, appear cool to the idea.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Italian leader praises Bush's vision, courage 06/12/08 [Last modified: Saturday, June 14, 2008 10:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Jennifer Loven.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine reflects on the news from the Congressional Budget Office analysis that could imperil GOP leaders' hopes of pushing their health care the plan through the chamber this week, Tuesday, on Capitol Hill in Washington. [AP photo]
  2. Review: Dan Auerbach, Benjamin Booker plumb the past for inspiration on new albums

    Music & Concerts

    It didn't take Benjamin Booker long to get lumped in with the greats. The Tampa-raised singer-songwriter's 2014 self-titled blues-punk debut brought widespread acclaim, not to mention an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, a tour with Jack White and sessions with Mavis Staples.

    The cover of Benjamin Booker's new album "Witness." Credit: ATO Records
  3. Fourth of July in Tampa Bay: parades, hot dog parties, concerts and more things to do


    Looking for things to do on the Fourth of July in Tampa Bay? There is no shortage of patriotic events, from the Hot Dog Party concerts and eating contest in Tampa, to the parades in Land O' Lakes and Safety Harbor, to the swinging dance party at St. Petersburg's Museum of Fine arts, there's an abundance of things to do …

    The annual Independence Day parade in Brandon kicks off at 10 a.m. on July 4 at 101 E Lumsden Road. [EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times (2015)]
  4. Pasco deputies investigate vandalism at Crystal Springs Cemetery (w/video)


    CRYSTAL SPRINGS — Pasco County deputies are looking for one or more suspects linked to vandalism of two grave sites in this community's small cemetery.

    An above-ground tomb disturbed by one or more suspects, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.
  5. Republicans struggle to marshal votes for health care bill


    WASHINGTON — Republican leaders scrambled for support Tuesday before a vote to take up legislation repealing the health care law, negotiating, pressuring and cajoling Republican senators but preparing for another embarrassing setback for President Donald Trump.

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, talks with his chief of staff Sharon Soderstrom, right, and communications staff director Antonia Ferrier, left, as they walk to his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, June 26, 2017. Senate Republicans unveil a revised health care bill in hopes of securing support from wavering GOP lawmakers, including one who calls the drive to whip his party's bill through the Senate this week "a little offensive." [Associated Press]