British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told President George W. Bush yesterday he shares the US view that there are "duties to discharge and responsibilities to keep" in Iraq.
"Our aim, like the United States is, step-by-step, to move control to the Iraqi authorities," Brown said, joining Bush at a news conference at the president's Maryland mountaintop retreat.
Brown said that decisions about troops would only be made "on the military advice of our commanders on the ground," echoing language often heard from Bush.
Indeed, minutes later, in response to a question, Bush said: "The decisions on the way forward in Iraq must be made with a military recommendation as an integral part of it."
The United Kingdom's commitment to the war is essential to the Bush administration. Britain has 5,500 troops there, with forces moving from a combat role to aiding local Iraqi forces.
Bush didn't directly answer whether he planned to pass on the war to the next president, who will take office in January 2009. But he hinted that was likely.
The Camp David meeting was an attempt by Brown and Bush to seek common footing between leaders new to each other but overseeing one of the world's most important alliances.
In deference to the US-Britain relationship, Bush gave Brown the full foreign-leader treatment: a coveted overnight stay at the presidential retreat, three meals of all-American fare and introductory talks spanning a range of weighty matters.
But building personal rapport was the main theme. The men have been together before, but this was their first official sit-down since Brown took office in Britain a month ago.
As a result, the men stressed what their nations have in common when they appeared together before reporters - 25 minutes late, a rarity for the usually punctual president - to cap the two days of talks both one-on-one and with advisers.
"So everyone's wondering whether or not the prime minister and I were able to find common ground, to get along, to have a meaningful discussion," Bush said to open their press availability. "And the answer is 'Absolutely."'
Bush said they met over dinner Sunday night for more than two hours alone, dismissing aides from both countries to the rustic camp's bowling alley.
"You know, he probably wasn't sure what to expect from me," the president said. "I kinda had a sense of the kind of person I was going to be dealing with. I would describe Gordon Brown as a principled man who really wants to get something done."
Brown said he and Bush agreed on the need to pursue tougher sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.
Source: China Daily/agencies