Mon, Nov 08, 2004 - Page 7 News List

White House prepares to host Blair later this week

AFP , WASHINGTON

US President George W. Bush prepared Saturday to host British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the first foreign leader to visit the White House since Bush's re-election and ahead of Iraq's January elections.

Blair will arrive Thursday and meet with Bush at the White House Friday, spokesman Scott McClellan said in a statement.

Bush "is determined to continue to reach out to friends and allies, and the EU and NATO, to promote development and progress, to defeat the terrorists and to encourage freedom and democracy as alternatives to tyranny and terror," read the statement.

"The United Kingdom stands as one of America's closest allies, and Tony Blair as one of America's greatest friends," it added.

Bush, who was re-elected for a second four-year term on Nov. 2, will hold a joint news conference with Blair at 11:25am Friday.

Blair is one of Bush's most loyal foreign allies, along with prime ministers Silvio Berlusconi of Italy and John Howard of Australia, and President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland. All four of their countries have troops in Iraq.

Speaking at a EU summit Friday, Blair said European leaders are waking up to the "new reality" of Bush's re-election.

"What I'm really trying to say is, we've got to move on now, there's a new reality, so let's work with that reality," he said in Brussels after meeting Iraqi interim leader Iyad Allawi.

Earlier this week Blair said the war on terror must involve not only bringing democracy to Iraq but also a renewed commitment to peace in the Middle East and the alleviation of poverty in Africa.

Blair faces intense anger over Iraq after three British soldiers and their Iraqi civilian translator were killed in a suicide attack on Thursday, just days after being sent into a dangerous US-run sector of the war-torn country.

On Friday UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warned Washington, London and the interim Iraqi government that a planned assault on Fallujah could undermine planned elections in January.

Home Secretary David Blunkett told the BBC on Saturday that Annan was "entirely wrong" for opposing the offensive.

Blunkett said the US-led coalition had to listen to Annan's concerns but added: "I think on this occasion he is entirely wrong."

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