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Bush Meets with New British Prime Minister

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

President Bush wrapped up a two-day meeting today with Britain's new leader, Gordon Brown. It was his first visit to the U.S. as prime minister. Mr. Bush brought him to a favorite meeting place for the president and Brown's predecessor, Tony Blair. Blair, of course, was a close Bush ally and a firm backer of the war in Iraq, and he suffered mightily at home on both counts. Much focus today was on how Gordon Brown might distance his country from the United States and distance himself from President Bush.

NPR's David Greene covered the meetings at Camp David.

DAVID GREENE: As soon as President Bush walked out with Gordon Brown to talk to reporters, he tried to clear up this whole question about the relationship.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: So everybody's wondering whether or not the prime minister and I were able to find common ground to get along, to have a meaningful discussion. And the answer is absolutely.

GREENE: The prime minister was standing next to Mr. Bush. With a broad meadow in the dense woods of Camp David behind them, Brown said he's ready for a close partnership as well.

Prime Minister GORDON BROWN (United Kingdom): And I've told President Bush that it's in Britain's national interest that with all our energies, we work together to address all the great challenges that we face also together.

GREENE: Those challenges, Brown said, include Iraq. And this is where it became clear the two leaders are in different places. Brown noted that British forces are slowly coming home. There once were 40,000 British troops mainly in southern Iraq. Now, just a little more than 5,000.

Prime Minister BROWN: And we move from combat to overwatch in three at the four provinces for which we, the British, have security responsibility. We intend to move to overwatch in the fourth premise(ph) and that decision will be made on the military advice of our commanders on the ground.

GREENE: President Bush has taken the opposite course: increasing U.S. forces in Iraq, and he says that decision is based on advice he's gotten from his commanders.

Pres. BUSH: That's what we want to do. We want to be in a position where we can achieve huge results on the ground so that we can be in a different posture. Problem was last fall, we weren't going to be able to transfer because conditions on the ground were getting out of control, and so I made the decision to send more troops in.

GREENE: When he met with Tony Blair, President Bush often got into testy exchanges with the traveling British press. Today, Mr. Bush noted that the faces haven't changed.

Mr. NICK ROBINSON (Reporter, BBC News): Good afternoon, Mr. President.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROBINSON: Nick Robinson, BBC News. It's very nice to be back.

Pres. BUSH: Yes, it is.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROBINSON: Mr. President, you trusted Tony Blair, noting your phrase, to cut and run from Iraq. After your talks, do you believe you can trust Gordon Brown in the same way?

GREENE: Mr. Bush insisted that he can.

Pres. BUSH: There's no doubt in my mind that Gordon Brown understands that failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the security of our own countries.

GREENE: New York Times reporter Jim Rutenberg pointed out that Gordon Brown has spoken about terrorism as a crime, a law enforcement matter, and he asked whether he and Mr. Bush share the same approach when it comes to terrorism. Mr. Bush helped with the answer.

Mr. JIM RUTENBERG (Correspondent, New York Times): Do you have the same philosophy as the president in terms of terrorism?

Prime Minister BROWN: Absolutely.

Pres. BUSH: What do you expect the answer to be…

Prime Minister BROWN: Absolutely.

Pres. BUSH: …Rutenberg? Come on, man.

Prime Minister BROWN: Let me just stress that we're in a generation-long battle against terrorism, against al-Qaida-inspired terrorism. And this is a battle for which we can give no quarter.

GREENE: Gordon Brown has a reputation for being a bit stiff in public. Mr. Bush was asked about his impression, and he said that's not what he saw in his private meetings.

Pres. BUSH: He's not the dour Scotsman that you described him or the awkward Scotsman; he's actually the humorous Scotsman. A guy that…

GREENE: Brown, for his part, said he enjoyed his conversations at Camp David but he also talked about seeking a relationship with the United States rather than with any one president. Brown was also scheduled to meet with Democrats on Capitol Hill and pay a visit to the United Nations.

David Greene, NPR News, Camp David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
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