'Yo, Brown!' - PM Arrives for First Talks with Bush ; HOME
Grice, Andrew, The Independent (London, England)
Gordon Brown tried to "move on" from the disaster in Iraq as he held his first meeting last night with US President George Bush since becoming Prime Minister.
Speaking to journalists during his flight to Washington, Mr Brown remarkably made no mention of Iraq in what was seen as an attempt to distance himself from what has become known in Britain as "Blair's war".
Plans to pull out the 5,500 British troops in southern Iraq were discussed by the two leaders over dinner at the President's Camp David retreat last night. Mr Brown was expected to reassure Mr Bush that he does not want to speed up plans to hand over the Basra area to Iraqi security forces.
The Bush administration does not want Britain to pull out quicker than agreed because that could increase the domestic pressure to withdraw US troops.
Simon McDonald, the Prime Minister's chief foreign policy adviser, discussed different scenarios on troop deployments with his American counterparts ahead of the Brown visit. But Downing Street insisted he made clear there was "no change" in the Government's policy.
Although Iraq and Iran's nuclear weapons programme are likely to top the agenda at Camp David, the two leaders will trumpet a public agreement on two less controversial issues. They will put pressure on other leaders to revive the stalled talks on a global trade agreement, and to speed up a resolution of the crisis in Darfur by redoubling pressure on the Sudanese government.
Mr Brown is trying to rally world leaders behind a four-point plan to end the impasse over Darfur. A new United Nations Security Council resolution, which could be approved this week, would allow a 19,000-strong African Union-UN joint peacekeeping force into Sudan shortly. The other elements are an immediate ceasefire in Sudan and a revived peace process backed up by the "carrot" of economic aid and the "stick" of sanctions if the process stalls.
Downing Street said Mr Brown was likely to raise the issue of the US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which Britain wants closed, but he is unlikely to denounce it in public.
Despite reports that Dick Cheney, the hawkish US Vice-President, wants military strikes against Iran, British sources say that there is no sign of any imminent military action. …