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A. I'm not a poodle and I'm not presidential, Blair insists, Guardian, 26 April B. Blair: the interview, Guardian, 26 April [extract] Guardian: firstname.lastname@example.org ******************************************** A. I'm not a poodle and I'm not presidential, Blair insists Patrick Wintour, Emma Brockes and Jackie Ashley Friday April 26, 2002 The Guardian Tony Blair today denies he will be America's poodle over a strike on Iraq or the war against terrorism, insisting that he will only assent to military action if it is the right thing to do. In a wide-ranging interview with the Guardian, marking his fifth anniversary in power, he claims the portrayal of Britain as a poodle could be destructive of the country's influence; he adds that a breakdown in trust between the US and Europe could have "explosive consequences". He also rejects suggestions that he runs a presidential administration or that he resents the popularity of the chancellor, Gordon Brown. Mr Blair's remarks came as Mo Mowlam, the former Northern Ireland secretary, steps up her attacks on Mr Blair in a separate interview with the Guardian, by asserting that he was behind covert poisonous briefings against her - and claiming that she had "become ashamed" of the government during her time in power. And in his first substantial intervention since his massive election defeat, William Hague, the former Conservative leader, also offers a sharp portrayal of Mr Blair's personality, with an article for the Guardian claiming his downfall will be his willingness to say different things to different people. In his interview, Mr Blair says: "There are forces inside America who do believe that America should be just on its own, do it in its own way, entirely unilateralist. It should be part of our job constantly to say, 'No, there are good allies in the world who can work with you,' and where we have disagreement, like we do over Kyoto or some of the trade issues, we will say that." "Most people around the world envy enormously the position that we have with America - my experience in five years is that where America and Europe work at something together they can crack it; where they come on different sides these issues become very, very difficult indeed and sometimes potentially explosive". He adds: "In respect of Iraq or anything else, if I thought America was wrong to do something I would say so." Ms Mowlam denounces the decision to go into Afghanistan as "silly" and says future military action against Iraq would be "very, very daft". She accuses Mr Blair of sanctioning poisonous briefings against her, saying: "I couldn't believe that he'd okayed it, but in the end, I came to the conclusion that he must have done, because otherwise they wouldn't have got away with it. He could have stopped it if he had wanted. But he didn't." She also complains about Mr Blair's "presidential" style of government, cutting out the party and the unions, which, she tells the Guardian, "could bring the ultimate demise of the party and the government." She says Tony Blair runs the government "like a law firm", with ideas discussed at the top and then expected to "filter down into the party and the parliamentary machine as it does in a law firm". Ms Mowlam, who fell foul of Mr Brown several years ago, accuses him of "using the Treasury as a power base against Tony and stands by her call for the chancellor to be sacked, saying: "You get Blairites and you get Brownites, so I think if they sorted that out, we would have a much more effective and efficient government". Mr Hague claims that Mr Blair's desire "to please as many people as possible for as long as possible produces more and more dramatic disappointments". **************************************************** B. Blair: the interview [extract] The bloke at No 10 The PM tells the feature writer of the year about the Middle East, Gordon Brown, George Bush and Iraq. Plus what he's reading, the problems of teenage kids and why he thinks he winds people up Emma Brockes Friday April 26, 2002 I wonder if his heart sank when George Bush was elected. He denies it. But when he's hanging out with Bush doesn't he think, well, what we all think: that he's a bit of an eejit? Blair looks cross. "No, because I think you would be wrong if you thought that. The process to become president of the United States is the most gruelling in the world. Believe me, you don't get many people who are fools who come through it and survive." (It seems churlish to reopen the did-Bush-actually-win debate.) "And secondly, he actually isn't like that. I find him extremely able and focused. To be fair to the guy, after September 11 I think lots of people thought that missiles would be fired that night, and they weren't. He proceeded in a very careful way and we were very much part of the strategy for that." Does it irk Blair when people keep on and on about Britain being America's poodle? "It doesn't irk me but I do think people are wrong and potentially very destructive of this country's influence. It is a good thing that the British prime minister has influence with the American president. There are forces inside America that believe that it should be on its own, entirely unilateralist. It should be part of our job to say no, there are good allies in the world who can work with you, and where we have disagreement, like over Kyoto or some of the trade issues, we will say that. Most people around the world envy enormously the position that we have with America." Blair might be expected to feel frustration about Colin Powell's failed peace mission to Israel and angry that Bush hasn't put stronger pressure on Ariel Sharon to stop bashing the Palestinians. "First of all, America is now engaging in the Middle East." Not terribly successfully. "Well, it is difficult." He sounds weary. "I don't think we can simply blame them; it is a very difficult problem." Does he think there is a moral difference between a Palestinian suicide bomber and an al-Qaidaterrorist? "I think that morally there is no difference. Acts of terrorism are appalling, and that is why at the same time that we have made our criticisms of Israeli actions, we shouldn't forget that Israel has had its citizens blown up in these attacks. The blame game doesn't help anyone." If Britain supports Bush on the war against Saddam Hussein it is not from some loyalty pact, but because of the "renewed sense of urgency" brought on by the events of September 11. "This guy is dangerous, let's not mess about," says Blair, although with the Middle East the way it is, "action is not imminent". Afghanistan, he says, was a wake-up call. "For years [the Taliban and al-Qaida] were allowed to develop in Afghanistan and we did nothing about it" - he stops short - "well, we did actually try to do certain things about it and Britain specifically did, but we didn't really focus on it." ************************************************************** _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email email@example.com All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk