On the final day of his farewell tour in the UK, US President George W. Bush is to meet British PM Gordon Brown and ex-PM Tony Blair. Bush will also visit Belfast for talks on the future of Northern Ireland. (Archive photo) (Story: A.Dupuis, J.Walsh)
US President George W. Bush is set to meet with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, his predecessor Tony Blair, and visit Belfast for talks on the future of Northern Ireland on Monday, the final day of his farewell tour of Europe.
The meetings come a day after he met with Queen Elizabeth II for tea in Windsor Castle, and later with Brown for dinner in Downing Street, as protesters scuffled with riot police nearby.
Bush is set to meet with Blair for breakfast Monday morning, the latter's spokesman told AFP, when they will focus on the Middle East peace process, and then hold formal talks with Brown.
His meeting with Brown is likely to focus on Iran and Iraq, with top officials from both countries dismissing a newspaper report that Bush would warn the prime minister against a premature withdrawal from Iraq.
The pair will also discuss climate change, the state of the global economy and ongoing efforts to clinch an international trade liberalisation deal.
Bush will then set off to Belfast, and along with Brown and Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, will meet with Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson and his deputy Martin McGuinness.
According to Cowen's office in Dublin, the meetings there will focus on the recent progress in the British province, review outstanding political issues, and analyse how best to build on the recent international investment conference there.
In the protests on Sunday, meanwhile, 10 police officers were injured and 25 demonstrators were arrested, Scotland Yard said, after protesters tried to breach police lines sealing off Whitehall, yards from where Bush and Brown were meeting.
The demonstrations returned to a tense calm before the end of the Downing Street meeting Sunday evening, however.
They were principally demonstrating against the invasions of Iraq in 2003 and Afghanistan in 2001, both of which were carried out when Blair, now international envoy to the Middle East, was British premier.
Protests have been rare during Bush's week-long tour of Europe, which has taken him to Slovenia, Germany, Italy, the Vatican City and France.
Since Bush's visit to Paris, commentators have made much of the new warmth in ties with France, and what are seen to be the cooler relations between Bush and Brown, at least compared to the British PM's predecessor Blair.
But US aides were at pains to underline the enduring close ties between Britain and the United States.
"Brown is a different personality than Blair. The president, I think, has forged a good, close relationship with each and both of them," said US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.
But he insisted: "What underlines that relationship is the fact that the United States and Britain continue to have a very special relationship."
Bush's last visit to London, in November 2003, saw three full days of protests, with tens of thousands of people marching past Downing Street marshalled by 5,000 police officers.
Brown went to the US presidential retreat at Camp David outside Washington last July, soon after taking over from Blair, to reaffirm transatlantic ties. He also visited the White House in April this year.
Date created : 2008-06-15