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Britain Guardedly Welcomes Iraq Study Group Recommendations


Initial reaction from London has been positive to the 79 recommendations outlined by the bipartisan U.S. Iraq Study Group, which presented its report to U.S. President George Bush. For VOA News, Tom Rivers reports from the British capital.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett says her first reading of the Iraq Study Group report shows "some important elements."

"We welcome the publication Iraq Study Group's report," she said. "It is substantial and a complex piece of work which of course the prime minister and senior British officials have contributed. From those discussions we get the impression that their thinking was broadly in line with our own but obviously we need to read and digest their formal recommendations."

Those recommendations will be discussed in detail Thursday when Prime Minister Blair meets with President Bush at the White House.

Part of the study group report says a renewed emphasis must be placed on finding a solution to the Israel-Palestinian problem. Beckett says she would strongly back such an initiative.

"That has been British policy for a very long time and something that we have encouraged and supported. What we all want to see are real concrete moves towards it," she said.

Opposition political leaders in London are digesting the report as well. Liberal Democrat Menzies Campbell for one, sees some important aspects that he hopes will be taken up by the U.S. administration.

"We have argued as Liberal Democrats that there ought to be some kind of regional approach, that there needs to be a contact group, particularly we have argued the United Nations should have much more to do with the reconstruction which is very largely stalled," he said. "And we have also argued the importance of talking to Iran and to Syria, both of whom have no interest in Iraq breaking up."

As to how it will be received in Baghdad, Iraq's ambassador to Britain, Salah al-Shaikhly believes the recommendations can have positive ramifications if adopted.

"Any effort including the Baker report would be welcome in Iraq," he said. "My government would study the report and I think they would respond in good time."

Britons will be watching Tony Blair's trip to Washington with intense interest. The government here has announced it would like to see a substantial draw-down of some of its troops in Iraq next year.