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
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
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
"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
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
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
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."
|President Bush arrives at RAF
Aldergrove, in Belfast, in Northern Ireland, Monday April 7,
2003. Bush is on a short visit to Northern Ireland to meet
with Prime Minister Tony Blair and discuss the war and
rebuilding in Iraq while trying to revive peace efforts in
Northern Ireland and the Middle East. ( AP Photo/POOL Haydn
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