President Bush, capping his European trip on Monday in London and Belfast, will return home having further smoothed trans-Atlantic ties frayed over the war, but with only seven months left to advance his goals in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and the Mideast.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown took a step outside 10 Downing Street and greeted Bush as he got out of his limousine. The two leaders, both unpopular with their constituencies, then disappeared inside the prime minister’s residence for their discussions, which also will focus on climate change, global trade negotiations and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Brown’s office said talks would center on Afghanistan, and that the leaders would likely offer firm words on Zimbabwe and on how to step up pressure on Tehran to stop enriching uranium.
The European Union and other nations are seeking new ways of persuading Iran to shut down its uranium enrichment program, which they suspect will be used to make nuclear weapons. Three sets of U.N. sanctions have failed to bring any change and Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful, civilian use only.
Even before E.U.’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, presented Iran with a modified package of incentives Saturday to suspend its uranium enrichment program, a spokesman for Iran’s government said his country would reject it. Iran said it would turn down any offer that Solana presented — on behalf of the United States, Germany, Britain, France, Russia and China — if it required Iran to stop the sensitive nuclear work.
“There is a commitment to try and make this Solana mission to Iran work, to show Iran that there is a way forward,” National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said Sunday. “But there is determination that if the Iranian regime rejects the latest offer, that the consequence of the regime’s decision will result in greater isolation of the regime, and regrettably, of the Iranian people.”
Talks on Iraq
The president and Brown also will talk about what conditions would allow more U.S. and British troop withdrawals from Iraq. Britain has 4,000 troops remaining in Iraq on the outskirts of Basra. British forces withdrew from their base in Basra’s city center last year and began to focus only on training Iraqi security forces. British troops, however, did aid Iraqi and U.S. forces in late March during their crackdown on Shiite militiamen in largely successful sweeps to curb violence in the oil-rich city.
Bush also held a short, private session with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the U.N. envoy to the Mideast peace negotiations, and the president plans to meet with Britain’s conservative opposition leader, David Cameron, too.
The last stop on Bush’s trip is Belfast where he, as well as Brown, will visit with Northern Ireland officials. Hadley said the president will urge Britain to transfer police and justice responsibilities to the Northern Ireland authorities.
The president also is visiting an elementary school for Catholic and Protestant students.