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Friday, Nov 19, 2004

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Bush-Blair bond

B. S. Raghavan

ANYONE watching the US President, Mr George W. Bush, and the British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, on the TV during their joint appearance before the media at the White House on November 12, would have been struck by a few interesting facets.

The first was about the body language and the atmospherics. Mr Blair appeared distinctly tense and uncomfortable in the initial stages, though he gradually warmed up as the conference proceeded.

He cannot be blamed, considering the accusation levelled at him by not only the Conservative Opposition, but even members of his own Labour Party, that he was bartering away his country's interests at the bidding of Mr Bush.

Indeed, at the media meet itself, a correspondent impudently asked Mr Bush, with Mr Blair staring in consternation, about the Prime Minister being seen as his poodle! Of course, Mr Bush did the only decent thing that a person would do in such a situation: He strongly condemned the suggestion, heaping generous encomiums on Mr Blair for his steadfast and resolute support, and going so far as to say with a touch of emotion that he (Mr Bush) considered it a great blessing to be the President during the same period when Mr Blair was the Prime Minister.

Significantly, with his political opponents back home weighing on his mind, Mr Blair could not bring himself to express similar flattering sentiments about Mr Bush.

The closest he came to in saying anything at all complimentary was when he briefly congratulated Mr Bush on his reelection. In fact, denying there was any payback in loyalty involved in Britain being on the side of the US, he pointedly said that his country was not fighting terrorism because it was an ally of the US, but it was an ally of the US because both shared the same objectives.

It was clear that both Mr Bush and Mr Blair were bent upon extracting from the new leaders of Palestine, who had neither the clout nor the charisma of the departed hero Yasser Arafat, an undertaking to renounce terrorism and follow the path of democracy, peace and freedom.

However, their failure even to mention any corresponding obligation on Israel's part to vacate occupied territories and desist from unilateral or pre-emptive aggression, does not bode well for the success of any future negotiations for establishing an independent Palestinian State.

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