Yesterday the President of the United States concluded his visit to Great Britain, which was the last country in his farewell tour. The London meeting highlighted that after the beginning of the Iraq War, Britain has remained the closest of America’s European allies, ready to support the outgoing American administration in its global war on terror. At the same time, George W. Bush was partly given a chance to bid farewell “courteously” with Europe. It isn’t that Europeans have forgiven the American president for the Iraq campaign, but that they simply have lost interest.
The two day London visit by President Bush and his short stay in Northern Ireland concluded a week long tour of European countries which included the U.S.-E.U. Summit in Slovenia, and visits to Germany, Italy, the Vatican, and France. In the course of his last foreign trip as head of state, Bush was able to iron over transatlantic disagreements that were sharply aggravated during his administration. At the same time the current tour by President Bush, who is due to step down at the beginning of next year, is very different from his other visits to the Old World. Human rights activists look at the President in a negative light and see him as simply a departing historical figure. Mr. Bush played on that subject himself in an interview with the British newspaper The Observer, when he hinted on a possible future memoir.
However, the agenda of the visit, which included a wide circle of questions (Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, the Middle East, global climate change, increase in the price of oil) was set to represent Bush as a head of an administration that is determined to conduct the final lap of presidential actively. Likewise, one of the questions was how things would go with the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Many in London voice the opinion that the former Prime Minister Tony Blair had forged such a close and informal relationship with Bush in the course of the Iraq War, that many questions in the course of the visit will be resolved between Bush and Blair and not between Bush and Brown.
President Bush tried to disavow the impression that Ex-Premier Blair is a better friend than Prime Minister Brown. “They’re different people, these are different times and at the same time these are important relations,” said Bush in an interview with the British news channel Sky News. Expanding on that thought, he said: “In truth, these are both unique relations; honest in both cases. My relations with Blair were forged under fire.”
On the brink of yesterday’s meeting with Bush, Prime Minister Brown demonstrated the readiness to “forge under fire” a friendship with the head of the American government, continuing the fight against terrorism.
Mr. Brown not only refused to set a timetable for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq, but showed readiness to deploy other troop contingents to the multinational NATO force in Afghanistan, and to proceed with the sanctions on Iran. This was the best gift that George W. Bush could take from Europe.
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