PM Looks Past Iraq to Closer Trans-Atlantic Alliance

Optimistic Brown defends British troop cuts in Iraq, won't endorse a candidate.

April 16, 2008— -- British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said today that he believes "Europe and America are going to work more closely together in the years to come" as the United States elects its next president and divisions over the Iraq War come to an end.

Asked on "Good Morning America" about the three major party presidential candidates' varying plans for troop commitment in Iraq, Brown refused to say which policy he supported, but he did say that Britain's experience has shown that "progress has been possible."

Last fall, Brown pledged to cut the number of British troops in Iraq in half, to approximately 2,500. Then last week he announced the troops were staying in for now.

Brown is in the United States for four days to meet with President Bush, each of the three presidential candidates and business leaders. He said his latest decision on the British troops in Iraq was not an implicit endorsement of Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain's stance that a further troop drawdown was "irresponsible."

"It's a decision that's based on what's happening on the ground. We helped Iraqis create their democracy. Millions of people created that democracy. For Iraqis now, they want to control their own affairs. We have to make that possible," Brown said.

"As far as our role is concerned, we're primarily in the south. We have seen the progress that's been possible. We have been able to move from combat to overwatch. We've been able to move to a situation where we're training the forces not actually involved in the combat itself.

"We've been able to prove that we can reduce the numbers," Brown said, pointing out that the British have cut their numbers "down from 7,000 a year ago to 4,000 now."

When pressed on what he thought should happen with the level of American troops, and whether calls from Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to begin withdrawal early next year were a mistake, Brown demurred. "That is a decision that the president of the day has got to make," he said.

Trans-Atlantic Alliance

In the years to come, Brown told Diane Sawyer he is looking forward to closer cooperation between Europe and the United States.

"Because we've got Chancellor Merkel [Germany], we've got President Sarkozy [France] and Prime Minister Berlusconi [Italy], all of them wanting a very strong trans-Atlantic relationship, I think the link gives us a huge opportunity."

Brown argued that U.S. and European interests and priorities were converging.

"We all want to deal with climate change, all want to build a stronger international economy where we can have better relationships, particularly with Asia. All of us want to play a bigger part in creating stability in areas like Africa, and deal with the sense of injustice that exists in some places in the world where some people are missing out on the benefits of globalization."

Brown's spokesperson said the prime minister's likely priority in his meeting with Bush will be to address the world economic and financial crisis. The two will meet at the White House Thursday morning.

Brown also plans to meet with the presidential candidates separately Thursday at the British ambassador's residence between meetings with the Bush and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan.

On Friday, he'll meet with the current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and give a talk in Boston about reforming what he says are outdated global financial institutions.