President Bush and Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev led world leaders Wednesday in final rites for the Cold War as a 34-nation summit in Paris ended with a triumphant declaration that the "era of confrontation and division in Europe is over."
The celebration was tempered by concern over the Persian Gulf, and the leaders departed Paris still apparently seeking consensus on how to force Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait.Bush flew Wednesday from Paris to Saudi Arabia. Upon arrival in the potential combat zone, Bush said he will tell U.S. troops they are "not there on a mission impossible" and declared the Soviets support his tough stand against Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
He was greeted at the airport by King Fahd, the monarch who granted permission last summer for the U.S. military deployment that now has swelled beyond 230,000 troops.
Bush was dividing his time in Saudi Arabia between private diplomacy and public appearances with some of the hundreds of thousands of forces he's ordered into the desert to guard against further Iraqi aggression.
Bush's spokesman said the president will meet with Syrian President Hafez Assad in Geneva on Friday for a discussion that will center on the Persian Gulf crisis.Before leaving France, Bush said he and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev see "eye to eye" on the subject despite Gorbachev's reluctance to issue a public declaration of support for a United Nations resolution authorizing the use of force to evict Iraq's occupying forces from Kuwait.
Bush spoke in Paris just before the Soviet leader issued a call for an immediate meeting of the United Nations Security Council to address a "very dangerous" situation in the Persian Gulf "and take a decision there."
"We can't just leave things this way without giving them closer analysis," the Soviet leader added.
Asked if the U.N. might act this month, Bush said, "Stay tuned. There's certainly a chance."
The final act of the first post-Cold War European summit was marked by the signing of the Charter of Paris, a written commitment to democracy, human rights and economic freedom. "We are closing a chapter in history. The Cold War is over and we now move on toward working . . . toward a peaceful and stable Europe," said Bush.
It took only 15 minutes to sign the document, bound in red leather, which signaled an end to an era of tensions in the nuclear age.
French President Francois Mitterrand was the first to sign. He was followed by Helmut Kohl, chancellor of a newly unified Germany, and the leaders of Poland, Hungary and other nations that until a few months ago were hard-line communist followers of the Soviet Union.
The summit opened on Monday with the formal signing of a landmark treaty that slashes nonnuclear forces in Europe and a companion non-aggression pact.
But if the formal sessions were devoted to European security issues in the post Cold War era, Bush devoted much of his backstage diplomacy to the Persian Gulf, where Iraq's occupation of Kuwait is more than 3 months old.
Bush's first stop in the Middle East was in Jiddah for a meeting with the exiled emir of Kuwait. Next was a near-midnight dinner with Saudi King Fahd, known for his preference for late-night meetings.
On Thursday, Bush will fly to Dhahran on the Persian Gulf to begin a daylong hopscotch series of meetings - and turkey dinners - with troops from the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines. About 250,000 American troops have been sent to the gulf, and Bush has ordered an additional 200,000 to the Middle East.
Bush said he planned to tell the troops, "We're going to prevail. We're not there on a mission impossible."
The president, who has sought a tougher international stand against Saddam, told reporters that "I leave Paris feeling that we are still together as countries who want to see this situation reversed and want to see this man unilaterally get out of Kuwait."
The summit document referred to Cold War tensions that divided Europe for 45 years. Every European nation but Albania signed. Canada, the United States and the Soviet Union also signed.
"Europe is liberating itself from the legacy of the past," the charter said. "Ours is a time for fulfilling the hopes and expectations our peoples have cherished for decades: steadfast commitment to democracy based on human rights and fundamental freedoms, prosperity through economic liberty and social justice, and equal security for all countries."
The charter sets up a small bureaucracy in Prague for the 34-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, as well as a center for the prevention of conflict in Vienna and an office in Warsaw to help monitor elections.
"Democratic government is based on the will of the people, expressed regularly through free and fair elections," the charter said. "Democracy is the best safeguard of freedom of expression, tolerance of all groups of society, and equality opportunity for each person."