Bush, Blair To Meet In Washington
July 7, 2008 - 8:10 PM
London (CNSNews.com) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair traveled to Washington Wednesday for talks with President Bush about the status of the war on terror and the military campaign in Afghanistan.
The meeting between the leaders of the two main anti-terror coalition nations came after Blair ruled out any negotiation with Afghanistan's ruling Taliban regime during a televised interview late Tuesday.
The prime minister's official spokesman said Blair would report to the president on the results of his tour of the Middle East last week. The leaders will also discuss the military options in Afghanistan, the humanitarian situation and the contribution of other coalition members, the spokesman said.
Also on the agenda in Washington is a discussion of the possibilities for government in a "post-Taliban" Afghanistan. Blair will brief Bush on an impromptu meeting of European heads of state in London on Sunday. The meeting was designed to shore up support for the military action amongst U.S. allies, and this week both France and Germany announced contributions of troops to the anti-terror effort.
No chance of negotiation
In an interview broadcast Tuesday on "Larry King Live," Blair said the Taliban was now joined with bin Laden's al Qaeda terror network.
"Our information is that effectively the Taliban regime and the al Qaeda network have virtually merged now. Their forces are the same and their military structures are virtually the same. So there is no negotiating with them," he said.
The prime minister also said that worldwide opposition to terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden is growing as attacks against Afghanistan continue.
"I think there is a genuine sense of revulsion (towards bin Laden) amongst the vast majority of Muslims," Blair said. "I think there's an increasing recognition in that world that those people who are moderates and who follow the true spirit and religion of Islam have to take on the extremists that are trying to abuse Islam for political ends."
He also said that Western nations need to improve relations with Arab and Muslim countries, and that the leaders of the anti-terror coalition need to consistently explain the reasons behind military action.
The West has to produce explanations "not just for the peace of mind of our own citizens, but to free people in Afghanistan from one of the most wretched and despised and oppressive regimes anywhere in the world," Blair said.
He also praised President Bush's "magnificent" handling of the international crisis.
During his meeting with Bush, Blair may also raise the possibility of changes in sanctions against Iraq. Blair's spokesman said the British government wants tighter controls on the country to restrict Saddam Hussain's ability to make weapons of mass destruction.
At the same time, the government wants to make it easier for food aid to reach the Iraqi people. Any change in the sanctions would have to be approved by the United Nations.
Blair's flurry of shuttle diplomacy has drawn some criticism by some pundits who say that the prime minister has been neglecting domestic affairs in favor of foreign affairs.
However, Blair defended his schedule before leaving for Washington, noting that he has been out of the country for only nine days since Sept. 11. His spokesman warned of a "false distinction" between domestic and international affairs.
Blair's week of diplomacy continues when he returns to the U.K. on Thursday. He will meet with King Abdullah of Jordan before vital talks with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
On Friday, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, will visit London for talks about a possible Spanish contribution to the war in Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, Blair traveled to the United States on one of the first Concorde flights out of Britain since July of last year, when the entire fleet of supersonic jets was grounded after a crash in Paris killed 113 people.