| Laura Bush
Washington, Sept. 28 (Reuters): US First Lady Laura Bush will try to polish America’s international image, battered by disputes over the war in Iraq, when she visits Europe on a five-day-trip that began today.
“There’s a great benefit for our country if we can really let people around the world know what we are really like and what our values are really like,” she told reporters last week in discussing her third solo foreign trip as First Lady.
Bush left Washington today for Paris, and will travel on to Moscow on Tuesday.
In Paris, she is to represent the US tomorrow in a ceremony marking the US reentry to Unesco, the UN’s main cultural organisation, from which Washington withdrew in 1984 citing mismanagement and anti-Western bias.
President George W. Bush announced plans to re-enter the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation last year, as he sought UN backing for his get-tough policy on Iraq.
Analysts said the decision was made to curry UN support.
The state department said that membership would help Washington fight “toxic ideologies” fuelling terrorism.
“The stated goals of Unesco are the goals that many, many Americans have,” she said. Unesco promotes exchanges between nations to foster understanding and knowledge.
In a keynote speech at the re-entry ceremony, the First Lady will promote childhood education as a “universal issue,” her spokeswoman, Noelia Rodriguez, said.
The First Lady will also preside as the US flag is raised at Unesco headquarters.
She will seek to help mend a rift between the US and France over Iraq when she pays a courtesy call on French President Jacques Chirac.
“We want to have a friendship with France and I know that Americans want to have a friendship with France,” she said.
France’s role leading opposition to the Iraq war triggered an anti-France backlash among some Americans, and Presidents Bush and Chirac failed to bridge their political differences in a meeting at the UN last week.
Critics of the US have accused Bush of arrogance and disregarding views of other countries in a go-it-alone foreign policy.
In Moscow, she aims to showcase US children’s literature as a window into American values when she participates in a book festival hosted by Lyudmila Putina, wife of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Children’s literature, and much US literature in general, is better than television at portraying themes such as a pioneer spirit, building society and striving to be moral, Bush said.