British Prime Minister Tony Blair met with U.S. President George W. Bush on Friday. The two presented a united front on Iraq and shed more light on their plans for the country's future.
U.S. President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Washington on Friday.
Amid a backdrop of growing violence in Iraq, British Prime Minister Tony Blair met with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington on Friday. The two presented a united front and called on the UN to take on a more active role in Iraq.
They also discussed the recent developments in the Middle East and were more specific about their plans for an Iraqi transitional government. Bush has been criticized in recent days for not endorsing a particular plan for a transitional government to govern the country after the U.S. led coalition transfers sovereignty on June 30.
A plan for Iraq 's future
As the situation in Iraq grows more uncertain, the two leaders are counting on more UN involvement in the region to lend their operations legitimacy and convince the rest of the international community to pledge additional support in the form of troops and money. They, thus, said they support a UN proposed plan for a transitional government, which is being devised by the organization's special envoy to the region, Lakhdar Brahimi.
Brahimi has been in Iraq and is expected to come back with suggestions by the end of the month. He did, however, reveal parts of his proposal earlier this week: he suggested that the Iraqi Governing Council be dissolved and replaced by a caretaker government consisting of a UN-appointed prime minister, a president and two vice-presidents.
Both Blair and Bush expressed strong support for this proposal and the work of the UN. "We welcome the proposals presented by the UN special envoy, (Lakhdar) Brahimi," said Bush. "He's identified a way forward to establishing an interim government that is broadly acceptable to the Iraqi people."
"The UN will have a central role, as now, in developing the program and machinery for political transition to full Iraqi democracy," added Blair. "And we will seek a new UN Security Council resolution to embody the political and security way forward."
Courting the United Nations
Prior to his trip to Washington, Blair stopped in New York on Tuesday to meet with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and lobby for that new resolution.
"It's in everybody's interest to see Iraq become a stable and democratic state," he said. "Our determination to get there remains undimmed. We have to stand firm."
While Annan said that the last year had not been easy for his organization, he added that divisions in the international community were beginning to heal, and he hoped member states would cooperate on a new resolution. He, however, has been reluctant to send staff to the region until the security situation improves.
Blair supports Middle East policy shift
On Friday, Bush and Blair also talked about Bush's recent policy shift regarding the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon earlier this week, Bush voiced his support for Sharon's proposal to withdraw from the Gaza strip but keep several Jewish settlements in the West Bank in return.
Blair said on Thursday that he didn't feel rebuffed by Bush's reversal, adding that he saw it as a positive move after the so-called road map to peace stalled.
"I think it's important that we ensure that the initiative that has been taken the past couple of days leads to a real sense of movement and change there in the Middle East," he said. Other European leaders have been far less enthusiastic about Bush's policy shift and have warned that unilateral moves won't bring lasting peace to the region.