Bush feels better, travels to Poland
June 8, 2007
By JENNIFER LOVEN
Associated Press Writer
HEILIGENDAMM, Germany (AP) – An upset stomach forced President Bush to skip some meetings at an international summit on Friday. Some bed rest let him rejoin the gathering and continue to Poland for talks on a new missile defense system.
“He’s not 100 percent, but he felt well enough to return to the talks,” White House counselor Dan Bartlett told reporters.
The aide said Bush likely fell ill with “some sort of bug, probably more viral in nature” and that it appeared unrelated to anything he ate at the summit of eight industrialized democracies being held at this seaside resort.
Laura Bush didn’t feel well a few days ago either, Bartlett said, but didn’t stop any of her activities.
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The president already was dressed when he began feeling ill in the morning, Bartlett said. He stayed in bed for several hours, missing one session with African leaders and most of another with leaders from China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa, all developing nations not G-8 members.
Even while ill, Bush taped his weekly radio address on the immigration bill and met as planned with France’s new president, though in his private quarters instead of a meeting room.
Bush also attended the closing lunch, engaging in extensive sideline conversations with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Bush also met on the summit sidelines with Chinese President Hu Jintao and they had a “good talk” about Darfur, a Bush aide said.
And the president kept to his original travel schedule, departing Germany for Poland and a meeting and dinner with President Lech Kaczynski. Afterward, Bush was headed to Rome.
Members of the Group of Eight on Friday reaffirmed two-year-old pledges to try to lift Africa out of poverty and fight the spread of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The declaration came on the third and final day of the G-8 summit, where leaders also agreed to a new program worth more than $60 billion to fight disease in Africa.
Anti-poverty activists have complained that the world’s richer countries have not kept their earlier promises to boost annual aid to poor countries.
The group also warned Iran over its disputed nuclear program, saying it would support “adopting further measures” if it fails to suspend enriching uranium, which can produce fuel for civilian energy or material for a bomb. The statement was a sign of support for U.N. Security Council moves to discuss a third set of sanctions against Iran.
Leaders discussed a proposal on the Serbian province of Kosovo, which is seeking independence, but did not come to agreement. They had what White House spokeswoman Dana Perino described as “several good conversations” in which they reiterated the need to resolve the issue through the Security Council.
Bartlett joked that Bush’s decision to avoid the other leaders for a while was a “precautionary step” to avoid following in the footsteps of his father, former President George H. W. Bush. At a state dinner in Tokyo in January 1992, the elder Bush fainted and vomited.
The first hint that something was amiss with the current president came when French President Nicolas Sarkozy emerged alone from their meeting. He said, in French, that Bush was in his bedroom and that Bush’s spokesmen would have to explain further.
It was their first meeting since Sarkozy took office May 16, and second overall; the first was last September in Washington. Sarkozy said Bush invited him to come to the United States soon.
“The president felt that they established a real personal rapport,” Bartlett said.
The new French president, seen as friendlier to the United States, will likely be a welcome change from the merciless tormenting Bush received from Sarkozy’s predecessor, Jacques Chirac.
Sarkozy is one of a couple of new leaders that make Europe a more comfortable place for Bush to be these days – even with the impending departure of Tony Blair, the British prime minister who has been Bush’s most steadfast foreign ally. Several European countries oppose the Iraq war, and Bush faced public protests when he visited.
In Poland, Bush traveled to Kaczynski’s seaside presidential retreat on a peninsula jutting into the Baltic, a complex of five villas set on high, wooded dunes. The Bushes were clearly impressed with the striking steel, glass and stucco structures. Mrs. Bush said the Kaczynskis made her and the president feel “right at home” by greeting them with their dog, Titus, a black Scottish terrier who appeared a twin of their own pooch, Barney.
Asked how he was feeling, Bush looked a little wan – after two helicopter rides – but winked and flashed a thumb’s up.
The three-hour stop in Poland serves as a bookend to Bush’s visit to the Czech Republic at the start of the trip. Bush wants to base a new missile defense system in both countries, which has been the source of a heated dispute with Russia.
On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin presented Bush with a surprise counterproposal built around an old Soviet-era radar system in Azerbaijan rather than in Poland and the Czech Republic. Bush said he would consider it.
On Friday, Putin offered yet another alternative, saying missile defense interceptors could be located in Turkey, Iraq or at sea.
Bartlett said Bush’s talks with Kaczynski would be “an important consultation” on the matter.
“Don’t expect to have definitive answers to a very complicated set of issues,” he said. “This is going to be a continuing dialogue with all interested parties.”
Azerbaijan’s foreign minister, Elmar Mammadyarov, said Friday that the former Soviet republic is ready to consider proposed joint U.S.-Russian use of its radar facility.
Associated Press writer Christine Ollivier contributed to this report.