World

Brown, Bush discuss Iraq, Darfur at Camp David

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and U.S. President George W. Bush concluded Monday their first-ever talks that touched on many subjects, including the war in Iraq, Darfur and climate change.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and U.S. President George W. Bush concludedMonday theirfirst-ever talks that touched on many subjects, includingthe war in Iraq, Darfur and climate change.

U.S. President George W. Bush, left, walks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to a news conference at Camp David on Monday. ((Charles Dharapak/Associated Press))

The two leaders, who met over the weekendat Camp David for the first time since Brown replaced former British prime minister Tony Blair a month ago, said they agreed on many topics duringtheir one-on-one dinner Sunday and breakfast Monday.

"I'm pleased to report that this relationship will be a constructive, strategic relationship for the good of our peoples," said Bush, who described their meetings as relaxed, casual and meaningful.

"It's a partnership founded and driven forward by our shared values … what Sir Winston Churchill … called the joint inheritance of liberty," said Brownat a Monday news conference.

Brown emphasized that it was in Britain's interest to work together with the U.S. to address the "great challenges" the nations face, citing nuclear proliferation, the Middle East peace process and international terrorism.

On the topic of Iraq, Britain, which has 5,500 troops stationedthere,has duties to discharge and responsibilities to keep, Brown said. He added that his goal, like that of the U.S., is to step-by-step transfer control to Iraqi authorities.

Britain also wants to proposeto the Iraqi government new financing for Basra, andwantsIraqis to set up a Basra economic development agency to help people find jobs, he said. British troops in Iraq are posted mostly in the south of the country, and control the key city of Basra.

On Iran, the two leaders agreed that the sanctions imposed because of Iran's controversial nuclear program are working, and that the next stage would be to toughen the sanctions with a UN resolution, Brown said.

Both Brown and Bush also want to step uppressure to end the violence in Darfur, which has displaced two million people and killed 200,000 people, Brown said.

The leaders wantto expedite a UN resolution for a joint UN-African Union peace force and are encouraged about early peace talks.They would support economic development if there's an end to the violence, and theywould support further sanctions if it doesn't end,Brown said.

On the issue of climate change, both leaders agreed to support the issue in the context of sustainable development and support meetings in the coming months,Brown said.

On Sunday, Brown's helicopter touched down at the Camp David mountain retreat in Maryland. The two men said they dismissed their delegations in order to talk privately over dinner.

The two leaders picked up their conversation over breakfast Monday.

"Do you come here a good bit?" Brown was overheard asking Bush, remarking on Camp David's rich history.

360-degree spin in golf cart

"I do," Bush replied.

Grinning, the president then drove a golf cart around in a 360-degree manoeuvre on the roadway before racing away with Brown in the passenger seat.

Simon Serfaty, a European expert at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, characterized the Bush-Brown meetings not only as a chance for both men to get acquainted, but for the president to find out whether the new prime minister is a reliable ally.

"The word is 'reassurance,'" Serfaty said. "This is not about a marriage. It's a date."

While Brown has begun his term in good standing with British citizens over his handling of foiled bomb plots and catastrophic flooding at home, Bush is headed in the opposite direction in polls.

The U.S. president has come under fire over the war in Iraq and is unpopular in Britain, leaving Brown with the tricky task of coming away fromthe meetings optimistically while also making sure not to seem too closely aligned with Bush.

The British government's commitment to the war is essential support for the Bush administration.

Brown's spokesman Michael Ellam said there was no plan to withdraw British troops before the Iraqi army is deemed capable of maintaining security. Notably, though, Brown is covering his bases. After his meeting with Bush,Brown plans to meet leaders on Capitol Hill, some of whom are at odds with Bush over his war policy.

Brown was later to leave Washington for New York, where he will hold talks with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and deliver a speech to the United Nations.

With files from the Associated Press

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