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Brown, Bush Meet to Build Ties


British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is in the United States for his first meeting with President Bush since taking office in late June. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports they are meeting in seclusion at Camp David - the mountain-top U.S. presidential retreat.

They have a full agenda for their discussions. But officials on both sides indicate the main focus of the visit is to build some sort of rapport between the president and Britain's new prime minister.

They will hold their talks in seclusion at Camp David - meeting first alone, and later in the presence of a few top aides. A brief question and answer session with reporters is also planned.

It was at Camp David that President Bush held his first one-on-one talks with Gordon Brown's predecessor, Tony Blair, back in 2001. The two had, by all accounts, a close working relationship. So much so, that Mr. Blair was ultimately chastised at home for being too close to the president - especially after the start of the Iraq war.

Recently, a senior British foreign ministry official indicated there might be a slight cooling off now between the White House and Number 10 Downing Street, the prime minister's official residence. But in a statement just before his departure for Washington, the new prime minister spoke of the importance of Britain's relationship with the United States based on shared values.

Spokesmen for both Prime Minister Brown and President Bush kept their pre-visit comments focused on the positive. They said the talks would cover the stalled world trade negotiations, efforts to stop the bloodshed in Sudan's Darfur region and diplomacy aimed at preventing Iran from developing the technology for nuclear weapons.

Iraq, of course, will also play a key role in the discussions. A major London newspaper - The Sunday Times - is reporting that prior to the trip, Brown aides were already sounding out officials in Washington about the possibility of an early British withdrawal from Iraq. However, a spokesman for the prime minister denied Gordon Brown would present Mr. Bush with a plan for pulling out British troops.

The Camp David talks will continue through midday Monday. Prime Minister Brown then heads to New York where he will deliver a speech at the United Nations and meet with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

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