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Wednesday, Jul. 19, 2006 at 11:09 AM
Breaking with diplomatic formalities, Bush hailed Blair, his closest European ally, with the words "Yo, Blair". His solution to the Middle East crisis was that Syria should press Hizbollah to "stop doing this shit." (Photo of Tony Blair by the Alternative Lies Network ).
blair.jpg, image/jpeg, 202x432
LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Tony Blair was roundly mocked as a U.S. poodle on Tuesday after an off-the-cuff chat with President George W. Bush was accidentally broadcast. Bush and Blair enjoyed a gossip over lunch at the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg on Monday, unaware that a microphone in front of them was switched on and their words would be relayed around the world.
Breaking with diplomatic formalities, Bush hailed Blair, his closest European ally, with the words "Yo, Blair". His solution to the Middle East crisis was that Syria should press Hizbollah to "stop doing this shit". The media pored over the text of the conversation, saying it cast Blair in a subservient role and showed the unequal nature of Britain's much-vaunted "special relationship" with the United States. "Yo, Bush! Start treating our prime minister with respect," the Daily Mirror said, joining others in seeing the U.S. president's greeting as disrespectful.
The broadcast chat "reinforces the damaging public image of Blair as the U.S. president's poodle", it said.
But most damaging to Blair was what commentators saw as his plea -- rebuffed by Bush -- to be allowed to visit the Middle East to try to stop fighting between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas.
Blair suggested he could prepare the ground for U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, because "if she goes out, she's got to succeed ... whereas I can just go out and talk". The left-leaning Guardian said Blair "all but offers to carry her (Rice's) bags".
"He sounds less like the head of a sovereign government than a Bush official, waiting for the boss's green light -- which he does not give," the newspaper said.
Blair has been Bush's most trusted ally, putting his political future on the line by backing the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 despite rows with European allies and fierce political attacks at home. The Independent described the spurned offer to act as peacemaker as a setback for Blair, who is under pressure from within his own party to set a date to step down after a series of government scandals over sex, sleaze and incompetence.
Blair has said he will not stand at the next general election, expected in 2009.
Wyn Grant, politics professor at Warwick University, said the conversation suggested "that perhaps Blair doesn't have the kind of relationship with Bush that he would sometimes like to claim he has." But he said the conversation only reflected reality. "The U.S.-UK relationship throughout the whole period since World War Two has always been an asymmetrical one. It's always been one in which the U.S. has been dominant."
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