Bush, Brown to share Iraq strategies

The efforts are also to halt Iran's nuclear plans
June 15, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Heading into two days of talks, President Bush and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown plan to swap strategies on how to reduce their military forces in Iraq and halt Iran's nuclear ambitions. The two leaders will also discuss Middle East peace, climate change, trade and Northern Ireland governance, Bush's national security adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters traveling with the president on Sunday.

The president began his day with a bike ride and a church service in Paris, then shifted to London as his weeklong European trip neared its end.

He was to visit Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle, visit privately with British troops and have a social dinner Sunday evening with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his wife, Sarah, at Downing Street. Bush and Brown were also meeting Monday in London and traveling to Northern Ireland.

On the day Bush got to London, a British newspaper prominently reported that the president, in an interview earlier in the week, had delivered a warning to Brown about additional reductions of British forces in Iraq. The Observer story said Bush's words amounted to a "stern message" to Brown.

The White House quickly countered, insisting that Bush and Brown remain in accord about how Iraq.

"What the president said is what the president has been saying and Prime Minister Brown has been saying from the very beginning," Hadley told reporters traveling on Air Force One. "Obviously, we all want to begin to bring the troops home, but we all recognize we can only do that as they succeed."

Brown's Downing Street office concurred, saying it was not British policy to set "arbitrary timetables."

In the White House transcript of the interview, Bush said that there should be "no definitive timetable" for troop withdrawals, and that the reduction of forces should be based only on success in improving security. He said that, from his perspective, that's how Brown was approaching the matter, too.

"I am confident that he, like me, will listen to our commanders to make sure that the sacrifices that have gone forward won't be unraveled by drawdowns that may not be warranted at this point in time," Bush said.

In Northern Ireland, where Protestants and Catholics have a power-sharing agreement after years of violent conflict, Bush plans to discuss the overdue devolution of police and justice responsibilities to Northern Ireland authorities. Bush will encourage the setting of a firm date for this, Hadley said.

The quick stop in Northern Ireland on Monday will be the last on Bush's trip. He has also been to Slovenia, Germany, Italy and France.

Earlier, in Paris, Bush made a point again to note he was concerned about the record flooding in Iowa and other parts of the Midwest.

Addressing reporters after attending a church service, Bush said his "thoughts and prayers go out to those who are suffering from the floods."

"I know there's a lot of people hurting right now and I hope they're able to find some strength in knowing that there is love from a higher being," the president said with first lady Laura Bush at his side.

The president was briefed on the flooding while he was in Paris, as he was during other stops of his trip. He was assured that federal agencies were making plans to help those affected by the high water, White House press secretary Dana Perino said.

Record flood waters have overflowed river banks across parts of the Midwest, causing widespread damage and evacuations.

Bush and his wife attended a service at the American Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, an Episcopal-Anglican church near the Eiffel Tower. He said afterward, "Laura and I had the joy of worshipping here in Paris."

Bush also wished a happy Father's Day to the dads in America - including his own, the first President Bush.

Before church, Bush took an early morning bike ride at the Parc de St. Cloud, a former French estate on a hillside.

The air was brisk and the sky was overcast with gray clouds as Bush pedaled for about an hour through the green, wooded park.


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