Prime Minister Blair flies to Washington

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair flies tomorrow to meet President Bush. High on the agenda will be the situation in Iraq. The No. 10 press office said yesterday that it was a happy coincidence that the report of the Iraq Study Group would be published during his visit, but that he was not likely to meetJames Baker or Lee Hamilton, the joint authors of the report.

Among the issues to be discussed will be relations with Iran and Syria. Blair had set out his position in a speech to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council August 1, 2006, saying "we need to make clear to Syria and Iran that there is a choice: come in to the international community and play by the same rules as the rest of us; or be confronted"

However a speech by Blair on World Affairs at the London Lord Mayor's Banquet, on November 13, 2006, gave rise to such conflicting reports about his position on Iran, that the White House felt it necessary to issue a “Setting the record straight” press release the next day. It said that whereas the London-based New York Times and Washington Post reported that Blair had "Offered No Dramatic New Policy Proposals"; the Washington-based reporting by the same papers had claimed that “…Blair shifted his position”. The White House press office concluded that Blair’s position was not new and that it was similar to the President’s policy. Both leaders had expressed willingness to open talks with Iran provided it complied with UN resolutions and verifiably suspended uranium enrichment.