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As Bush launches farewell tour, Europe warms up

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'The West needs US leadership'

The US elections, the crisis in Iraq and Afghanistan, and worry about chaos ranging from terrorism to natural disasters to financial markets has raised anew a discourse in Europe's political class about America's role. Says a longtime German insider, "The political class realizes the West needs US leadership, despite what protesters say. Even after the US screw-up in the Middle East they feel the US is needed there."

"Under [former Chancellor Gerhard] Schröder, you did hear about Europe as a counterweight to the US, but not now. Europe is too divided," says Henning Riecke of the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin. "The West is a phenomenon that only works with American leadership. We can't solve Kosovo, Iran, and the Middle East without Washington."

But whether America can lead affirmatively under the next administration, say many experts here, depends in part on the disposition in Washington on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Many Germans and Europeans are concerned about an immediate US withdrawal from Iraq. "Europeans want America to stay in Iraq until a withdrawal is possible without creating a further civil war ... We are a little concerned about a withdrawal leading to chaos," says Dr. Riecke.

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