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Bush, Britain's Blair Say U.S.-U.K. Ties Remain Strong

17 May 2007

Blair says he will remain engaged on issues as he prepares to leave office

Washington – President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair praised the strength of the U.S.-U.K. relationship and recapped shared national goals at a joint appearance during what likely is Blair’s last official visit to Washington.

Blair, during a May 17 press conference with Bush, made it clear that he intends to continue working on the issues that are most important to him until his final day in office, while Bush assured reporters that Blair is still an effective world leader and will be able to influence international affairs even as he prepares to step down as prime minister in late June. 

“When we're in a room with world leaders and he speaks, people listen,” Bush said.  “And they view his opinion as considered and his judgment as sound.”

Bush also complimented Blair for “his patience and resolve regarding Northern Ireland,” where an agreement to share power between Catholic and Protestant factions allowed convening of a new government in Belfast on May 8 (See related article.)

According to the U.S. president, the two leaders discussed their nations continued commitment to the NATO mission in Afghanistan, peace efforts in the Middle East and effective action by the international community to relieve the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan.

UPCOMING GROUP OF EIGHT SUMMIT

Blair spoke about the upcoming Group of Eight (G8) summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, and his hope to advance international discussion there on climate change and assistance for Africa.  He said it is important to craft an agreement on climate change that involves developing countries such as China and India and also addresses industrialized countries’ concerns about energy security. 

The British prime minister also is seeking a recommitment from the G8 to the Africa initiatives set forth at the 2005 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.  He referred to efforts to alleviate poverty in Africa as “the major moral cause of our time.” (See related article.)

The G8 is composed of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and Russia.

The summit will be held June 6-8.

STRONG RELATIONSHIP BASED ON SHARED VALUES

Both leaders hailed the strength of U.S.-British relations.  Bush said, “This relationship is one that is vital to accomplish big objectives.”

Blair acknowledged that the closeness of the relationship has been controversial in Britain but added, “I've never doubted its importance.  I've never doubted that it's based on principle, on shared values and on a shared purpose, which is to make our world a better, more free, more just place in which people of all nations and all faiths can live.”

Blair said he decided after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, that the United Kingdom should stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States, and said he never regretted that decision.

“When it comes to the fundamental questions that affect our security and the future of the world, you should do what is right,” he said.  “I have tried to do that.”

Blair said British support of the United States is not a matter of simple alliances, but reflects his country’s own interests.  He said the United Kingdom and the United States are engaged in a battle over the type of values that will govern the world.

He pointed to the press conference as an illustration of the values embraced in his country and the United States.  The two leaders, he said, were subjected to difficult questions from the press while protesters demonstrated outside the White House.

“And that's what it's about,” he said.  “It's about democracy; and it's about people being free to express their views; and it's about politicians having to face the pressure to justify their decisions, to be punished if the people don't like those decisions.”

He said that is a better way of life than dictatorship or religious extremism.  “And what we should be about, our two nations, is giving as many people in the world as possible that choice and being proud of it,” he said.

A transcript of the remarks by the two leaders is available on the White House Web site.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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