Bush and Brown Get Acquainted At Camp David
Monday, July 30, 2007
President Bush, starting a new relationship late in his presidency, welcomed British Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday with casual diplomacy.
Yet with plenty of private time between the two men, the overarching theme of Brown's visit is the establishment of rapport.
Bush is aiming for at least a solid relationship with the new prime minister, shaped around their nations' mutual interests. But that would be far from the kinship Bush had with Brown's predecessor, Tony Blair, who lost favor at home because of his close ties to Bush.
Brown arrived by helicopter at Camp David after booming thunderstorms gave way to sunshine. He emerged to find a military honor guard and Bush waiting for him.
"It's a great pleasure to be here at Camp David because there's so much history associated with it," Brown told Bush as the leaders exchanged small talk.
Bush drove the two of them away in a golf cart after doing a playful 360-degree maneuver in front of the gathered media. The two had a private dinner.
En route to Washington, the new British leader said the world is indebted to the United States for taking the lead in the fight against terrorism. Brown said he would use his visit to strengthen what Britain considers its "most important bilateral relationship."
London and Washington are focused on "the biggest single and immediate challenge the world has to defeat: global terrorism," Brown told reporters traveling with him.
Brown was joined on the flight by Foreign Secretary David Miliband, the youthful legislator he promoted last month to take charge of international policy. Miliband was meeting Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for the first time in his new role, aiming, like Bush, to strike up an instant rapport with his counterpart.
The prime minister arrives with some thorny issues to manage, including the fate of Britain's remaining soldiers in Iraq.
London's Sunday Times reported that Simon McDonald, Brown's chief foreign policy adviser, recently discussed the possibility of an early British military withdrawal from Iraq with U.S. officials in Washington.
Military chiefs in London have said Britain is likely to hand over control of the southern Iraqi city of Basra to local forces by the end of the year. About 500 of Britain's 5,500 troops in Iraq are due to hand over the Basra Palace city-center base within weeks, defense officials said. Brown has not outlined plans for the remaining 5,000 troops, stationed at an airport on the fringes of the city.
Brown's spokesman Michael Ellam told reporters yesterday that McDonald had made it "very clear" to U.S. officials that there has been no change to British government policy on Iraq.
Eyebrows were recently raised in Washington when Mark Malloch Brown, a junior foreign affairs minister, said that Bush and Brown would not be "joined at the hip" -- a jab at Blair and his relationship with the U.S. president.
Other difficult issues include the American push to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, the Iran nuclear showdown and the status of the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo.