Prime Minister Tony Blair began his last trip here as British leader
Wednesday, armed with a parting shot to global opinion that US isolation
would make a restive world far more dangerous.
President George W. Bush greeted his closest foreign ally warmly before
the two headed into a private dinner that aides said would be dominated by
talks about the US-led "war on terror."
Blair looked startled by a barrage of flashes from photographers
chronicling his last White House meetings with Bush before he steps down
on June 27, after a decade in power. "You're a famous person," his host
The two leaders were due to hold a press conference in the White House
Rose Garden Thursday, heralding the end to a tumultuous partnership forged
in the heat of the September 11 attacks of 2001 and the war in Iraq.
Despite the crippling cost that his support of Bush inflicted on his
popularity at home, Blair insists that he did the right thing.
"I believe our country should be a strong ally of America, and I've
never had any problem with that," he said in an interview with US network
"I think it will be a very dark day for my country when we do have a
problem with it," Blair said.
"The biggest danger is if America disengages, if it decides to pull up
the drawbridge and say to the rest of the world, 'Well you go and sort it
out.' We need America engaged."
After famously discovering a shared taste for Colgate toothpaste at
their first meeting, the Republican president and the British Labour
leader marched in lock-step through many of the world's hot-spots over the
past six years.
Blair said he had learned to live
with taunts of being Bush's "poodle" or "lapdog."
"I've found him immensely straightforward to deal with, someone always
true to his word and someone
who's a very strong leader," he said.
The blood-soaked insurgency in Iraq and enduring threat from the
Taliban in Afghanistan form part of a "broader global struggle," Blair
"And if we back away, if we give up on it, if we show any signs of
retreat at all, then the enemy we face worldwide will be strengthened."
Bush paid his own fulsome
tribute to Blair last Friday, after the British leader announced his
"I'm going to miss him. He's a remarkable person. And I
consider him a good friend," Bush said.