- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2008

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown — looking toward the future of U.S. relations — took the unusual step of meeting with the three presidential candidates yesterday before heading to the White House for a frank discussion about Iran and Iraq with President Bush.

Mr. Brown, visiting the White House for the first time as head of the government, said he is pushing within Europe for a new round of sanctions against Iran because of its continued pursuit of nuclear weapons in defiance of the international community.

“I make no apology for saying that we will extend sanctions where possible on Iran,” said Mr. Brown during a Rose Garden press conference with Mr. Bush. “Iran has not told the truth to the international community about what its plans are.”

Mr. Brown said he is “talking to other European leaders about how we can extend European sanctions against Iran … in the next few weeks.”

Mr. Bush backed up Mr. Brown’s comments only by saying that Iran has “proven themselves to be untrustworthy,” pointing out a secret nuclear weapons program that was halted in 2003 as evidence that Tehran is not enriching uranium only to make energy.

“Gordon Brown seriously sees the threat, as do I,” Mr. Bush said. “And now is the time to confront the threat. And I believe we can solve the problem diplomatically.”

Mr. Bush said it would be “naive” to think Iran could not transfer uranium-enrichment knowledge from a civilian power program to a military program.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Brown met with the Sens. Barack Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain at the British Embassy.

“What I was convinced of, after talking to each of them and talking about the issues that concern them and concern the world, is that the relationship between America and Britain will remain strong, remain steadfast,” Mr. Brown said. “It will be one that will be able to rise to the challenges of the future.”

Mrs. Clinton said in a statement that she discussed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the China situation and the global economy, and “expressed my confidence that the relationship between our two nations will continue to deepen as we confront a wide range of global challenges and opportunities.”

At the White House, Mr. Bush and Mr. Gordon dismissed talk of a strained relationship between them.

“The world owes President George Bush a huge debt of gratitude for leading the world in our determination to root out terrorism and to ensure that there is no safe haven for terrorism and no hiding place for terrorists,” Mr. Brown said.

Mr. Bush, who shared an especially close bond with Mr. Brown’s predecessor, Tony Blair, said he and Mr. Brown are “making history together.”

“Our relationship is very special,” Mr. Bush said, speaking of his personal connection with the British leader as well as the bond between the two nations. “That’s not to say you can’t have other friends, and we do. But this is a unique relationship, truly is.

“Look, if it wasn’t a personal relationship, I wouldn’t be inviting the man to a nice hamburger or something. Well done, I might add,” Mr. Bush said, prompting laughter from the press. The two men actually dined on roasted ribeyes.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Brown also spent time discussing the global economy, which has been weighed down by the U.S. housing and credit crunches, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Brown began to withdraw British troops from southern Iraq after he became prime minister last summer but has paused the removal to help stabilize an area that has become a stronghold for Shi’ite militias.

The U.S. is also waiting for a response from Britain on whether London will take over NATO operations in the south of Afghanistan, which has seen heavy fighting.

Mr. Bush also used the opportunity to take aim at the Zimbabwean government of Robert Mugabe for withholding the results of its March 29 election.

“You can’t have elections unless you’re willing to put the results out,” Mr. Bush said.

S.A. Miller and Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.

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