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Bush in Copenhagen Thanks Danes for Iraq Support

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

President Bush is in Copenhagen this morning. He stopped off in the Danish capital en route to the G8 Summit in Scotland. He's there to thank Denmark for its support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. During a session with reporters, the president strongly defended his decisions on Iraq, the imprisonment of suspected terrorists, climate change and aid to Africa. NPR's David Greene is traveling with the president and reports from Copenhagen.

(Soundbite of television program, spoken in foreign language)

DAVID GREENE reporting:

On Danish television this morning, there was an American flag waving in the bottom left corner of the screen and a huge photo of President Bush behind the commentators who were reminiscing about some of Mr. Bush's favorite lines that he uses to threaten terrorists.

(Soundbite from television program)

Unidentified Woman: We're going to smoke them out.

GREENE: The president spent the night at a royal palace north of Copenhagen and made his way this morning to the prime minister's summer home. A brass band dressed to the nines in red tunics greeted the president who turns 59 today.

(Soundbite of brass band)

GREENE: The purpose of the president's 16-hour visit to Denmark was to thank Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen who stood by Mr. Bush in good times and bad in Iraq. Recently, the prime minister extended the stay of some 500 troops in southern Iraq despite opposition to that presence among a majority of Danish citizens. This morning, the president and his ally had breakfast, then came outside to speak to reporters.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: Thanks for the birthday breakfast. I would strongly recommend the Danish birthday cake.

GREENE: As soon as Fogh Rasmussen began speaking, it was clear he and Mr. Bush share a vision when it comes to foreign policy.

Prime Minister ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (Denmark): We share the belief that in the struggle between democracy and dictatorship, you cannot stay neutral. This is why Denmark contributes with more than 500 troops in Iraq, why we made an active contribution to the joint Allied efforts in Afghanistan, why we wish to promote democracy and reform in the Middle East and why we urge all parties to find a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

GREENE: The president said that after the September 11th attacks, there were leaders in Europe who mourned the loss of life in the United States but didn't understand the shift in thinking that was required to respond to the attacks, but he pointed to his Danish counterpart as someone who did understand.

Pres. BUSH: I want to thank you very much for your steadfast support and for freedom and peace in Afghanistan and Iraq. I particularly want to thank the loved ones, the family members of the troops stationed abroad for the sake of peace and freedom for their sacrifice.

GREENE: But if the two leaders are in lockstep on Iraq, there are many people in their two countries who disagree with them. Mr. Bush acknowledged that polls in the United States have not been going his way lately. He then repeated his common refrain that polls don't matter to him.

As a Danish reporter pointed out to Mr. Bush, polls haven't gone his way either in Denmark where there's been solid opposition to the Iraq campaign, but opponents here were not able to make the war a major campaign issue earlier this year when Fogh Rasmussen's center-right coalition won re-election.

In Copenhagen, thousands of Mr. Bush's opponents had protests planned today. All over the city, there were `Stop Bush' posters calling people to action, but these protests were likely to be nothing compared to what awaits the president when he arrives in Scotland this afternoon for the annual G8 Summit. Already in advance of that meeting, police were clashing with protesters who were dressed in black clothes and wearing bandanas. They were trying to block the road to the Gleneagles resort where Mr. Bush will be meeting with seven other world leaders the rest of this week.

David Greene, NPR News, Copenhagen.

MONTAGNE: Guides to the key players and issues at this week's G8 Summit are at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.