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Seeing Eye to Eye

Article based on news reports (sp)July 30, 2007

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Monday he is committed to US President Bush's goal in Iraq and that the two allies must continue to work toward securing peace in the country.

Brown, left, and Bush reaffirmed their common desire to see Iraq workImage: AP

Rebuffing a recent slew of reports that the new British prime minister would seek to distance himself from the US president, Bush and Brown showed a united front on Iraq during their meeting Monday.

"We have duties to discharge and responsibilities to keep in support of the democratically elected government and in support of the explicit will of the international community," Brown said in his first press conference with Bush since becoming prime minister in June.

Finding common ground

Bush and Brown met at the Camp David presidential retreat outside Washington for two days of talks that began Sunday amid a great deal of speculation as to whether the leaders would enjoy the close relationship Bush has with Brown's predecessor Tony Blair.

Bush too sought to cast aside any questions about his ability to work with Brown while emphasizing the close ties between the United States and Britain.

USA Großbritannien Gordon Brown bei George Bush in Camp David
The two leaders, seen here in a golf cart, demonstrated they get alongImage: AP

"So everybody's wondering whether or not the prime minister and I were able to find common ground, to get along, to have a meaningful discussion," Bush said. "And the answer is absolutely."

Brown gave no promises on how long Britain would maintain its forces in Iraq, saying only that a decision to hand over control for security in Basra province to Iraqi forces would be based on military advice.

"We intend to move to overwatch in the fourth province, and that decision will be made on the military advice of our commanders on the ground," Brown said.

Bush stressed that the two allies would work together towards securing peace in Iraq.

"There is no doubt in my mind that Gordon Brown understands that failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the security of our own countries," Bush said.

He said his relationship with Brown would be "a constructive strategic relationship for the good of our peoples."

Cracking down on Iran

Bush and Brown also discussed the humanitarian crisis in Sudan's Darfur region and the US-EU effort to forge a trade plan to help boost the world's underdeveloped economies.

On Iran, the two leaders agreed on the need to pursue tougher sanctions over the country's covert nuclear program.

"We're in agreement that sanctions are working and the next stage we are ready to move towards is to toughen the sanctions with a further UN resolution," Brown said.

Brown arrived Sunday at Camp David, his first visit to the United States since succeeding Blair June 27.

Britische Soldaten im Irak
Brown did not specify how long Britain would maintain its forces in IraqImage: AP

Bush enjoyed a close personal relationship and political partnership with Blair, who stood by Bush over the war in Iraq despite the British public's strong disapproval of Blair's decision to order British participation in the 2003 invasion.

The continuing struggle in Iraq helped to undermine Blair and sped his departure from Downing Street. Observers believe Brown will stake out a more businesslike relationship with Bush that will emphasize common goals between the two countries.

Bush has also faced deep opposition to the conflict in Iraq at home and increasing calls to set a timeframe for withdrawing US troops.

On Tuesday, Brown will hold talks with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York and give a speech at the world body.