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Saturday, September 20, 2003

Blair and a new European Consensus?

Earlier this week, I reported on the summit meeting among British Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. I mistakenly said it was occurring that day. In any event, they have now met.

According to the BBC, the leaders have found "common ground" over the future of Iraq:

Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said that while there had been "differences of opinion", he and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac had agreed a transfer of power to an Iraqi authority as quickly as possible was desirable.

The sticking point at the talks in Berlin was over the involvement of the United Nations in the post-war country, but Mr Blair agreed it should be a "key role".

He added that whatever the differences between the countries over the reconstruction of Iraq "they can be resolved, and I'm sure they will be".

Here are couple of additional quotes from the story:

'"Our views are not quite convergent at the moment," President Chirac said after the summit....But he added: "We still do not agree fully on Iraq but all three of us agree it should be dealt with in the UN."'

'Mr Blair added there was a "huge degree of consensus between us". '

So in the BBC story, all three leaders emphasize their common ground and play down the disagreements. I've speculated that Blair and the UK could be signalling a slight tilt toward Europe and away from Bush, but this story doesn't confirm that yet.

Interestingly, the NY Times story (registration required) emphasizes the failure of the summit to resolve differences among the parties. And the Times hypothesizes that Blair is "evidently" not yet ready to break with the Bush administration on the divisive issues.

Obviously, the key unresolved questions concern the status of the American occupying authority and the timetable for transition to Iraqi autonomy and democracy.

This story is clearly worth following. The great power dispute is certainly important to India, Pakistan, Turkey and Bangladesh -- all states apparently ready to provide troops if the UN sanctions them.

They are just waiting for the legitimate authority to act. The US/UK alone, of course, cannot provide that authority, and key Security Council states are still not ready to climb on board the Bush-Blair occupation.

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