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Bush in London for Talks With Brown


U.S. President George Bush is in London for talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson reports on Monday they will travel to Northern Ireland.

Their formal talks are expected to center on Iran and Iraq, as well as trade and environmental concerns, and the evolution of the Northern Ireland peace process.

President Bush arrived in London amid reports the British government may set a deadline to withdraw its troops from Iraq. At the same time, a British newspaper published an interview with Mr. Bush in which he warned against setting an arbitrary time table, saying any withdrawals must be based on success in the field.

The White House is downplaying differences with Britain on the troop withdrawal issue. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley says both the president and the prime minister want to bring troops home, but only when conditions are right.

They will have their chance to discuss the matter in depth during their formal talks. But on Sunday, the president's calendar was filled with social events - a tour of Windsor Castle with Queen Elizabeth and a private dinner at Prime Minister Brown's official residence with a group of historians.

Mr. Bush last met with Gordon Brown in April in Washington. But the big headline out of that trip did not come out of the White House. It was the prime minister's talks earlier in the day with the three U.S. Senators who were - at the time - running for president.

John K. Glenn - head of the foreign policy program at the German Marshall Fund of the United States - says he was not surprised to learn the meetings with the candidates came first.

"From now on people are going to wait and see who wins the election, what is the terrain, what kind of deal they need to make with the new president," Glenn said.

Glenn says Mr. Brown's predecessor, Tony Blair, found his ties to George Bush to be a drag on his popularity in Britain. He says Prime Minister Brown is more careful.

But at a White House news conference during his April visit, the prime minister went out of his way to declare the special relationship between Britain and the United States is sound.

Veteran journalist Reginald Dale - now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington - says Mr. Bush appears more comfortable with the new leaders of Germany and France. But he stresses this special relationship endures because it is based on a common language and values, and transcends personalities.

"There is an extraordinary bond that cannot get broken just because there are differences between Number 10 Downing St. (the residence of the British prime minister) and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (the White House)," Dale said.

After their formal talks and a joint news conference, Prime Minister Brown and President Bush will travel to Belfast, where they will hail progress in the Northern Ireland peace process. It will be the last stop on a farewell tour of Europe that has taken Mr. Bush to Slovenia, Germany, Italy and France.