In the midst of a week of intense diplomacy, President Bush got a boost Wednesday from British Prime Minister Tony Blair. After talks at the White House they defended the military operation against Taleban and terrorist targets in Afghanistan and vowed to prevail.
Prime Minister Blair chartered a supersonic jet to come to Washington so he could meet for just a few hours with President Blush. It was another reminder of the close relationship between the two allies in the war on terrorism. When they emerged from their talks, the mood was upbeat. Both made the same vow: we will prevail.
President Bush, aware of criticism the operation is moving too slowly, said victory will come, but it will take time. "Nothing will deter us in this all important goal," he stressed. "We both recognize that we wage a fight to save civilization."
Prime Minister Blair said the resolve of the world is as strong today as it was on September 11 when terrorists attacked New York and Washington. He noted that topic came up during the White House talks.
"We obviously also discussed how important it is that at this moment in time we carry on building that strong coalition against international terrorism in all its forms," said Mr. Blair. "And I believe that coalition, if anything, is even stronger today."
During a brief session with reporters, the two men were asked if there is a link between victory in the war on terrorism, and success in Middle East peace efforts. For President Bush, both are important, but the war will go on no matter what happens in the peace process. "There is no doubt in my mind," he said. "We will bring al-Qaida to justice, peace or no peace in the Middle East."
Prime Minister Blair agreed that the anti-terrorism coalition could meet its goals without a Middle East peace agreement. But, according to him, in the long term, a settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute is critical, because that is the prism through which some see the world. "Irrespective of the action in Afghanistan, it is in everybody's interest that we make progress in the Middle East and we will strain every sinew we possibly can to do so," said Mr. Blair.
The meeting with Prime Minister Blair came at the mid-point of a week of intense diplomacy at the White House. Before he heads to New York on Saturday to address the United Nations, President Bush will also meet with the leaders of Brazil, Ireland and India.