President Bush left Washington on Friday for Europe and the Middle East on a trip designed to formally "bury the Cold War hatchet" and to seek private talks with foreign leaders about the Persian Gulf crisis.

Bush, who hopes the eight-day trip will give him a lift at a turbulent point in his presidency, has been reluctant to talk about an end to the Cold War - but his top aides are not."The United States, while the Cold War may be over, intends to remain involved in European affairs in an energetic, vigorous fashion," Secretary of State James Baker told reporters in discussing the trip.

Bush was headed for Czechoslovakia for emotional ceremonies Saturday marking that country's "Velvet Revolution" a year ago.

In addition to talks with President Vaclav Havel, Bush is to address a massive outdoor rally at Wenceslas Square.

On Sunday, he flies to Germany - united Oct. 3 for the first time since the end of World War II - for brief talks on the gulf and other issues with talks with Chancellor Helmut Kohl, before flying to Paris that night for dinner with French President Francois Mitterrand.

In Paris, Bush participates in a 34-nation European summit under the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), which one senior U.S. official calls "an event that has been designed for the history books."

Baker, describing the summit, said that "for the first time in 40 years, Europe will be meeting and discussing and planning without an artificial East-West divide to block progress."

The leaders of the NATO alliance and the Warsaw Pact will sign a non-aggression pact "which will, in a sense, bury the Cold War hatchet," Baker said.