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Bush, Blair Call U.S.-U.K. Relationship Key to World Peace

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 17, 2007 – President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair praised each other’s courage and stressed the continuing importance of the U.S.-British partnership at the White House today in what may be their last joint news conference.

Blair will step down June 27 after more than 10 years on the job.

“I believe that the relationship between the United States of America and Britain is a relationship that is in the interests of our two countries and in the interests of the peace and stability of the wider world,” Blair said. “Sometimes it's a controversial relationship, at least over in my country. But I've never doubted its importance. I've never doubted that it's based on principle, on shared values, and on a shared purpose, which is to make our world a better, more free, more just place in which people of all nations and all faiths can live.”

Bush echoed Blair’s sentiment later in the news conference.

“I'm here to make it clear to the people of our respective countries that this relationship is one that is vital to accomplish big objectives,” the president said. “It has been vital in the past; it has … enabled the free world to do hard things. And it's a relationship that I believe is necessary to do the hard things in the 21st century.”

Bush called Blair “courageous” for his stand against terrorism and support of the United States in the fight against extreme fundamentalism around the world.

Bush noted that before the news conference, the two leaders conducted a videoconference with British and American leaders in Iraq.

“I remind our people that the best decisions are made when you listen to the commanders, and our commanders have got good, specific advice as to how to achieve our objectives, which I believe we'll achieve -- objectives that I know are necessary for … peace in the Middle East, peace in the United States and (in) the United Kingdom,” Bush said.

The two leaders also discussed progress in the NATO mission in Afghanistan. “We strongly support our NATO mission in Afghanistan,” Bush said, and he noted that NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer will visit Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, this weekend.

Actions in Sudan’s Darfur region, defense cooperation, global warming and the need to be involved in searching for peace between the Palestinians and Israelis were other topics Bush and Blair discussed today.

Blair thanked Bush for his strong leadership. “You’ve been unyielding, unflinching and determined in the fight that we face together,” the prime minister said.

Opinion polls in the United Kingdom show that many in the country disagree with Blair’s stance on Iraq. But British forces have been key allies since the run-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003. More than 7,000 British troops serve in Iraq, mostly as part of Multinational Division Southeast.

Blair said he has never doubted his decision to stand with the United States in the aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“I'm proud of the relationship between our two countries,” he said. “And I think that sometimes in politics there are all sorts of issues where you've got to negotiate and compromise. But when it comes to the fundamental questions that affect our security and the future of the world, you should do what is right. I have tried to do that, and I believe that is what (President Bush) has done as well.”

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