Category: Archive

Blair: I won’t be calling Bush too much

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Susan Falvella-Garraty Camp David, Maryland — George W. Bush will not be left hanging on the line when it comes to phone calls about Northern Ireland from his British counterpart. Indeed, he need not expect any calls at all if British Prime Minister Tony Blair is to be taken at his word. Late night phone chats were a constant occurrence during the Clinton years. Anytime the Northern Ireland peace process hit a snag, the trans-Atlantic phone lines hummed with talk between London, Dublin and Washington. Blair and Bush conferred at Camp David last week days after the “special relationship” between London and Washington was renewed in the skies over Iraq. But Northern Ireland also featured in the discussions between the two men, their first since Bush’s arrival in the White House. President Bush began his comments in a joint press appearance with Blair by praising his predecessor, Bill Clinton, for his involvement in the peace process, then said that he will wait to become involved in the process. Blair, in turn, left the impression with reporters that Bush should not wait by the phone for such any requests for intervention. “It’s difficult to foresee the exact circumstances in which I might pick up the phone and ask the president to help,” Blair, who was particularly close to President Clinton in both ideological and personal terms, said after Bush’s offer. “So I can’t exactly foresee the circumstances in which, you know, the American president can come in and be of help, but I was very grateful for the offer,” Blair said. Before Blair’s arrival in the U.S., White House National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, outlined for the first time the new administration’s vision of what amounts to a more limited U.S. role in the efforts to obtain political stability in the North. Rice noted the recent attempts to kick start the process out of the Doldrums. She said the Bush team remained committed to the peace process, but chose to note that engagement by the United States would now take place, “in an appropriate manner, and at an appropriate level when that engagement is needed.” Rice said she was not aware of any requests by Northern Ireland politicians for assistance on the sticky issues of police reform, decommissioning, or restoration of Sinn Fein’s position in the ministerial council. She denied any diminution of the Bush administration’s interest in the peace process while pointing out that the process was now in a different phase than when the Clinton administration placed the issue on its high priority list for presidential attention. “We stand ready to help when and if we can,” Rice said. “What you have here,” commented one Irish diplomat, “is the old reliance on the U.K. becoming America’s interlocutor with Europe and with that dependence will be the ability of the U.S. Congress, instead of the president, to press the British for movement in the North.”

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese