- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 6, 2001

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has had a good war in Afghanistan so far, but the contradictions of his policy are about to catch up with him, the shadow foreign secretary for the opposition Conservative Party said in an interview this week.
Michael Ancram, who is also deputy party leader, said the desires of Mr. Blair's Labor government to tie Britain more closely to the European Union conflicts with the "flexible, fluid nature" of the U.S.-led international coalition against terrorism that has proved so effective thus far in Afghanistan.
"The United Kingdom could not have responded as forcefully as it has if we had been tied to the European, least-common-denominator approach to security policy," Mr. Ancram said during a visit this week to Washington to meet with senior Bush administration officials.
While praising Mr. Blair's early and forceful support of the U.S. response to the September 11 attacks, the Tory deputy leader said the prime minister has done well "because he has adopted our policies."
"He's had to do a U-turn on his past," said Mr. Ancram, a former party chairman who held several top government posts before Mr. Blair ousted the Conservatives in 1997.
Mr. Ancram noted that the U.S. government has largely bypassed both the EU and NATO bureaucracies in Brussels to work with key European governments individually on military, humanitarian and logistical support in Afghanistan.
But like Mr. Blair, Mr. Ancram was cautious when asked about possible U.S. plans to make Iraq and its leader, Saddam Hussein, the next front in the counterterrorism war after Afghanistan.
"Our view is that we have to target terrorism, not countries," said Mr. Ancram.
"This campaign may in time have to turn to Iraq," he said. "It comes back to justification. The Bush administration demonstrated the reasons behind its campaign in Afghanistan and it was good for its credibility. I'm confident the U.S. government would demonstrate the same kind of rationale if there was to be action against Iraq."
Mr. Blair won a lopsided re-election bid in June over Conservative challenger William Hague. Mr. Ancram was named to the top Tory foreign-policy slot by new party leader Iain Duncan Smith, after briefly challenging Mr. Duncan Smith in the race to replace Mr. Hague.
The war in Afghanistan has derailed for now the Conservatives' argument that they are better able to preserve the treasured "special relationship" with the United States now that the Republicans control the White House. Mr. Duncan Smith has strongly supported President Bush's missile-defense shield and expressed deep doubts about the proposed EU army.
One purpose of the trip, Mr. Ancram said, was to get a firsthand look at how Mr. Bush's "compassionate conservatism" had managed to reverse two presidential election losses for the Republicans.
The Conservative shadow foreign secretary said the Blair government faces a major challenge of its own as the European Union prepares for a critical 2004 summit. That summit is expected to deliver a new political charter to guide the alliance and establish what powers should be given to Brussels.
"That is going to play into our policy sphere and away from the government," Mr. Ancram said. "The strength of Europe for Britain has been that we can respond in a layered way to different issues. There's a strong feeling that the integrationism the government supports has gone too far, too fast."

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