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April 7, 2003
 
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(AP Photo)
Bush, Blair Discuss Postwar Iraq Plans
President Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair Aim to Resolve Differences Over Postwar Iraq

The Associated Press


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BELFAST, Northern Ireland April 8

Looking beyond the war, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair are trying to bridge differences over how to rebuild and govern Iraq, while also seeking to boost peace talks in Northern Ireland.

In their third meeting in three weeks, Bush and Blair were meeting at Hillsborough Castle outside Belfast to discuss Iraq reconstruction and peace efforts in the Mideast and Northern Ireland.

Most of their focus Tuesday was on Iraq. The two leaders were showcasing military progress there and looking ahead to the postwar period, while seeking to minimize splits on who should govern and rebuild the country.

"The hostilities phase is coming to a conclusion," said Secretary of State Colin Powell, accompanying Bush aboard Air Force One to this British province with its own decades-long history of violence.

"It's time for all of us to think about the post-hostility phase, how we create a representative government consisting of all elements of Iraqi society," Powell said.

A key component of the talks Tuesday was to be on U.N. resolutions that would define what role the international body would play in reconstruction and governing.

"There is enough work for everyone to have a role," Powell said, even as aides conceded privately that Blair seems to want a more influential U.N. role than Bush favors.

Bush has said he supports a U.N. role and the creation of an interim governing authority for Iraq. But he has not provided key details, such as the exact nature of the U.N.'s role and the makeup of the authority.

Powell said the United Nations can provide humanitarian aid and add legitimacy to the interim authority, but he did not offer a role for the international body beyond that. A Blair spokesman, stressing agreement with the United States, told reporters the United Nations has never expressed a desire to run Iraq.

Irish Prime Minister Bernie Ahern, invited for talks Tuesday on Northern Ireland, said he would tell Bush the United Nations should have a primary role in Iraq's reconstruction.

Bush added a complex set of issues by heeding Blair's call to meet in Northern Ireland and to back Blair's peace blueprint, due out later this week. Blair has racked up IOUs from Bush by backing the president on Iraq in the face of fierce opposition at home.

Following their meeting, the two leaders planned joint statements on both Northern Ireland and Iraq.

Blair hopes presidential backing will strengthen his hand when he publishes his government's new Northern Ireland plans by Thursday, the fifth anniversary of the so-called Good Friday accords. The pact sought to end three decades of sectarian conflict in the British territory.

The visit demonstrates Bush's support for Blair's approach, administration officials said.

"This is a very significant step in the life of Northern Ireland," Powell said.

The Iraq war undercut support for Bush among some citizens in Belfast.

In the Bogside district, a 50-foot-high wall that for more than three decades has read "You are now entering Free Derry" was painted solid black in a gesture of mourning for Iraqis killed in the war.

The area's veteran civil rights activist, Eamonn McCann, said most Derry Roman Catholics considered Bush a hypocrite for telling the Irish Republican Army that violence doesn't pay.

"Bush is saying to political leaders here: Give up the gun, don't use violence to pursue political ends, follow the rule of law. He is demanding that they do that even as he prosecutes the war in Iraq," McCann said. "I doubt if I've ever encountered anything as grotesquely hypocritical as the exercise in Hillsborough."


photo credit and caption:
President Bush is greeted by British Prime MinisterTony Blair at Hillsborough Castle, Monday, April 7, 2003 in Hillsborough, Northern Ireland. Bush is on a 19-hour visit to Northern Ireland to discuss the war and rebuilding in Iraq while trying to revive peace efforts in Northern Ireland and the Middle East. (AP Photo/POOL, Paul Faith )

Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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