Guest Lottie Posted November 12, 2004 #1 Share Posted November 12, 2004 Tony Blair is due to have talks with George Bush in Washington, with the Middle East expected to top the agenda after the death of Yasser Arafat. Mr Blair, who touched down at Andrews air force base on Thursday night, is the first international leader to meet the US president since his re-election. The pair spent "face-to-face" time on Thursday, taking the unusual step of dining alone at the White House. Mr Blair then returned to the British embassy. National delusion? Downing Street officials are hoping Mr Bush will give a "signal of intent" over the Middle East during the two-day meeting. Former UK ambassador to the US Sir Christopher Meyer told BBC News Mr Blair is under pressure to return to the UK with "tangible evidence he has influence in this relationship". "I'd be surprised if the president didn't say something that wasn't of comfort for Tony Blair and the British government. What exactly that is going to be is very hard to predict," he said. Ex-foreign secretary Robin Cook meanwhile wrote in the Guardian newspaper that Mr Blair needed to set out a "new role with the Bush administration of candid friend rather than loyal chorus". He added: "Downing Street is celebrating the special relationship at the very moment in history when we should be questioning whether it is not a national delusion." Peace momentum The Middle East peace process was always expected to top the talks agenda, even before the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. "The most important thing is to make sure we reinvigorate the peace process because there is misery for Palestinians, there is misery for Israelis who suffer terrorist activity," Mr Blair told GMTV on Thursday. "And in the meantime we have got a situation where it is a huge source of discontent and problems within the world so it is important we deal with it." Mr Blair believes momentum has been lost, partly because of the US elections. But speaking from the prime minister's plane on Thursday, BBC political correspondent James Landale said aides were playing down expectations the trip would yield any detailed proposals. Earlier, Mr Blair's official spokesman said: "The priority is to restore that momentum - it is important to get a signal of intent." But background work had been continuing so it was not a case of starting with a "blank page", he added. Mr Bush on Wednesday said he wanted to see Israel and a Palestinian state existing peacefully together and he wanted to play a part in ensuring there was a chance that could happen. War protests The two leaders will also discuss progress in Iraq as the US-led assault on Falluja continues. Away from Middle East issues, the future of the four British terror suspects still being held at Guantanamo Bay may also be on the agenda in Washington. The UK says the men should receive a fair trial in the US or be returned to Britain. British business leaders also want Mr Blair to raise the issue of American trade "protectionism". And the prime minister is being urged to persuade the US to back the Kyoto agreement on tackling global warming. Source Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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