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January 31, 2002, Thursday


A NATION CHALLENGED: THE ALLIES; Many in Europe Voice Worry U.S. Will Not Consult Them

By SUZANNE DALEY (NYT) 965 words
PARIS, Jan. 30 -- The three countries pinpointed by President Bush as an ''axis of evil'' -- Iran, Iraq and North Korea -- reacted angrily today while commentators in many other nations, including European allies, bristled at what they saw as the combative, go-it-alone tone of the State of the Union address.

Britain, America's leading partner in its military campaign in Afghanistan, was among the few voices praising Mr. Bush, saying he was ''entirely right'' to register ''concern in relation to other countries.''

Elsewhere in Europe, there has been far less support for an expanded military campaign against terrorism, and that was reflected in comments today. In the Middle East, many were disappointed in Mr. Bush's lack of comment about the Arab-Israeli dispute.

In the Philippines, which has been cooperating with American efforts to root out terrorists and where joint exercises to do so are to begin on Thursday, officials reacted with irritation at Mr. Bush's warning that if countries did not deal with terrorists on their own soil, ''America will.'

''It's clear in my mind that one president of a friendly country does not threaten another friendly country,'' said the Philippine justice secretary, Hernando Perez.

In Moscow, Dmitri Rogozin, the chairman of Parliament's international affairs committee, said the speech seemed to indicate that ultra-conservatives in the administration had gotten the upper hand.

Mr. Rogozin said it appeared that America had forgotten that North Korea had imposed a moratorium on the production of long-range missiles, that Iran had offered assistance to the Bonn conference on the formation of an interim government in Afghanistan, and that an earlier Washington statement had called for ''smart sanctions'' against Iraq.

Josef Joffe, a German foreign policy analyst, said: ''What was particularly striking is the way Mr. Bush countenances the projection of American power from anywhere to anywhere. He described America in a truly global war able to fight anywhere. There is no allusion to allies at all. But in practical terms, the U.S. cannot fight wars without allies.''

''Who is taking over in Afghanistan now?'' he asked. ''It would not have cost him anything to at least make a courtesy bow to the allies.''

In much of Europe and Asia, Mr. Bush's speech played in the early hours of the morning, when few people are watching television and most newspapers have already begun printing early editions.

As the day wore on, Mr. Bush's speech rose to the top of the news programs. In France, the afternoon daily Le Monde ran a front-page cartoon of Mr. Bush in battle fatigues and a headline saying, ''Mr. Bush points out his latest enemies.''

A television editorialist on LCI, France's 24-hour news station, said the speech belonged to ''a sheriff convinced of his right to regulate the planet and impose punishment as he sees fit.''

In Germany, an editorial in the daily S�ddeutsche Zeitung offered Chancellor Gerhard Schr�der sympathy as he heads for Washington tonight. ''Poor Gerhard Schr�der,'' the editorial says. ''It can't be easy being the first grumpy European to appear at the throne of the freshly anointed American Caesar.''

Some political experts saw the speech as underlining a new divide between the United States and the rest of the world.

''We tend to see Sept. 11 in parenthesis, an aberration that is now behind us,'' said Fran�ois L. Heisbourg, director of the French Foundation. ''But the Bush speech makes clear that is not the case for the U.S. For Americans, Sept. 11 marks a strategic change in the landscape. And that will be very jarring for many people here to hear.''

There was also speculation about what Mr. Bush really meant by citing North Korea, Iraq and Iran, and treating them as equally culpable. ''The lumping of these three countries together will be of concern,'' said Robert Menotti, a researcher at the Italian research institute Cespi. ''We really see North Korea as in another category.''

For their part, Iraq, Iran and North Korea immediately rejected Mr. Bush's accusations that they were exporting terrorism and developing weapons of mass destruction to threaten America and the world. The Iranian foreign minister, Kamal Kharazi, challenged Mr. Bush to ''back up his assertions with evidence instead of repeating old and unfounded claims.''

''Bush intends to divert public opinion from the Middle East issue and to prepare the domestic grounds for continuing his support of Israel in its brutal oppression of the Palestinian nation,'' state radio quoted Mr. Kharazi as saying.

In Iran, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a top adviser to the the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ridiculed Mr. Bush's remarks. ''It is possible that Americans will cheer Bush as the Congressmen did, but we will not be threatened by such aggressive language,'' state television quoted him as saying.

North Korea's official media scoffed at Mr. Bush for identifying the nation as among the world's most dangerous. It said his ''loudmouthed threat'' was intended to justify an American military presence in South Korea.

South Korea's president, Kim Dae Jung, hurriedly stressed the importance of peace with North Korea.

There was little official comment from Russia, which swiftly joined America's war on terrorism but has balked at any idea of attacking Iraq and refused to stop helping to build a nuclear plant in Iran.

In India, the president's speech got little coverage during the day. But some officials appeared heartened to hear Mr. Bush mention India in the same breath as China and Russia in working with the United States ''in ways we never have before.''

''That really points to the increasing dialogue and cooperation that is developing between the United States and India,'' said Nirupama Rao, a spokeswoman for India's Ministry of External Affairs.

Copyright 2002 The New York Times Company