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Blair prepares for Bush meeting


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Blair prepares for Bush meeting

Tony Blair's official spokesman has downplayed expectations ahead of the prime minister's meeting with President George W Bush in Washington on Tuesday.

He said it was part of preparations for the G8 summit - not the summit itself.

The key areas for discussion at the meeting would be aid to Africa and measures targeting global warming.

The visit is part of Mr Blair's tour of G8 countries ahead of the summit in Gleneagles. No 10 said they wanted to focus on agreements, not disagreements.

Mr Bush opposes Gordon Brown's plan to help Africa using an international finance facility to fund vaccinations.

Ready for the summit?

But Downing Street was keen to stress areas of common ground with the US.

Number 10 said people should not prejudge the outcome of next month's summit of eight of the world's richest nations on the basis of US/UK talks.

"This visit is part of the preparation for Gleneagles, not Gleneagles itself," Mr Blair's spokesman said.

"So we are not expecting ... to see the final US position tomorrow. That will come at Gleneagles."

Starting point

There were "large areas" of Anglo-American agreement not least that "Africa is a priority", the spokesman stressed.

"We also both agree that the starting point is what Africa needs and we agree without the US that that assessment has to be about more than throwing money at the problem," he said.

The UK Government's ambition is an agreement to double international aid and to make strides forward on climate change.

"That is where the focus is, rather than continuing the disputes of the past," he said.


EU finance ministers are due to discuss the plans in Brussels before the gathering of G7 finance ministers in London on Friday - G7 is the G8 minus Russia.

Mr Brown has said this week's talks are crucial.

He told the GMB union's conference in Newcastle that the government's agenda for Africa was a "new alliance for global prosperity".

Mr Brown has made clear that he intends to proceed with his international finance facility with or without the US.

Political capital?

He has also disclosed he is seeking the help of oil-rich Gulf states.

There are also fundamental difference between Europe and the US over climate change and its causes.

Andrew Mitchell, the shadow secretary for international development, told BBC Radio 4's World at One that he hoped the prime minister would capitalise on his close relationship with George Bush.

He said: "What we want the prime minister to do is to draw down the large amount of political capital which he has invested in the White House and the American administration to make sure that the Americans form up fully behind the British agenda."

White House invite?

As Mr Blair meets with Mr Bush, the prime minister's wife Cherie is due in Washington for a speaking engagement which is being billed as the inside story of "the first lady of Downing Street".

She is reputed to be being paid £30,000 and Downing Street are stressing the engagement is separate from Mr Blair's programme of events.

Downing Street were unable to say if the premier and his wife would meet up saying: "It's a matter for the White House to talk about any invitations the White House issues."

The White House said: "I'm not aware of anything, but you are right, there's a great relationship there [with US first lady Laura Bush] and everyone's schedules are being taken a look at."

Story from BBC NEWS:


Blair is aware that his popularity goes down in the polls every time he's seen with this man?

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