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Bush, Blair look beyond Saddam at summit

The two leaders are to discuss a broad range of post-Saddam "geopolitical issues" which they touched upon briefly.

india Updated: Mar 27, 2003 10:27 IST

US President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair started a two-day summit on Wednesday with a warm-up discussion over dinner of "geopolitical issues" that the world will face once the war in Iraq is over, a British official said.

Blair flew into Washington from London earlier in the day and flew immediately by helicopter to the US presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland where he was to spend the night.

They are to start on Thursday with a 40-60 minute joint briefing via video link with Washington, London and coalition military headquarters in Qatar for an update on the US-led invasion of Iraq that began a week ago on Thursday.

"I stress it is an update of the agreed strategy, as agreed several weeks ago" to overthrown Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and clear the country of weapons of mass destruction, the official told reporters in Blair's entourage.

Afterwards, the two leaders are to discuss a broad range of post-Saddam "geopolitical issues" which they touched upon briefly over Wednesday's two-hour dinner in the Laurel Cabin at Camp David.

Those issues include the role of the United Nations in rebuilding Iraq, the quest for Israel-Palestinian peace, relations between the West and the Islamic world, and badly strained transatlantic ties.

Blair is to see UN Secretary General Kofi Annan quickly on his way back to London on Thursday, in a VIP lounge at New York's John F Kennedy international airport.

On the possible role that the United Nations might play in administering Iraq if the coalition conquers Iraq, the British official said, "Obviously it is an issue that we will touch on."

"But it is not a single issue summit," he added, "and there will be no decisions taken on that during this summit."

"We have to see what the post-Saddam Iraq is going to look like. We have to see what the pace of events are, and we have to also have discussions at the UN," he said.

When they met in the Azores on March 16, four days before the war broke out, Bush, Blair and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar called for immediate UN humanitarian aid for Iraq and a quick resumption of its Oil for Food program.

They also pledged to get UN Security Council endorsement of "an appropriate post-conflict administration for Iraq," though the Bush administration is cold to the idea that the UN itself should run the country for an interim period.

Blair has left his options open, insisting only that the United Nations' role must be "central."

First Published: Mar 27, 2003 08:57 IST