Visit by Britain's Brown may redraw U.S. relations
He doesn't have his predecessor's cozy ties to the president.
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published July 29, 2007
LONDON - When Prime Minister Gordon Brown stepped into Tony Blair's shoes a month ago, his government signaled that the relationship with the Bush administration would be different. Notably, he appointed an outspoken critic of the Iraq war to his Cabinet.
Today, Brown heads to Washington for a first face-to-face test of his relationship with President Bush, keen to smooth tensions over a perceived turn against the White House.
The trip is Brown's first major overseas visit since he ended his 10-year wait to succeed Blair last month.
He will hold talks with Bush at his Maryland retreat, Camp David, and deliver a speech to the United Nations in New York after talks with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.
Brown must contend with inevitable comparisons with Blair. The former prime minister's close bonds with Bush and predecessor Bill Clinton won him admiration in the United States but cost him popularity at home, especially with regard to his decision to back the Iraq invasion.
"We know that we cannot solve any of the world's major problems without the active engagement of the U.S.," Brown said in a statement Saturday night.
"The relationship between an American president and a British prime minister will always be strong," he said. "I am looking forward to my meeting with President Bush to discuss how we can work together to meet many of the great challenges we face."
White House press secretary Tony Snow said Thursday that Bush and Brown have a "very special important relationship."
But some of Brown's first moves as premier raised eyebrows in Washington.
He named Mark Malloch-Brown as junior foreign affairs minister. As deputy to ex-U.N. General Secretary Kofi Annan, Malloch-Brown had fierce spats with former U.S. ambassador John Bolton. Malloch-Brown has said Bush and Brown would not be "joined at the hip," another signal that Britain could be seeking some distance from Washington.
British commentators also interpreted a speech in Washington by new International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander as a subtle critique of Bush's policies. Alexander called for an end to a world in which "a country's might was too often measured in what they could destroy."
"In the 21st century, strength should be measured by what we can build together," he said.
Brown also offered a post to John Denham - an ex-minister who quit the government in 2003 in protest over Iraq.
Brown's office denied a report in the Independent newspaper that Brown's visit had been rushed forward from a planned date in September to reassure Washington.
In many ways, Brown knows the United States better than Blair. While Blair took family holidays in Italy and France, Brown prefers Cape Cod. Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, is a respected economic adviser to Brown.
But Reginald Dale, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it was unlikely Brown could re-create Blair's close relationship with Bush.
"Most people here acknowledge things won't be the same," said Dale. "It will be amicable, but not as intense as Bush's relationship with Blair, which was something quite unique."