Monday, April 21, 2003
Wordsmithing - 21st April 2003, 20.32

Perhaps the Prime Minister should add the role of neologist to his ever-expanding list of talents although I suspect that he has admired, from afar, the role of the (late and lamented) Iraqi Information Minister. In homage to al-Sahhaf, he may have resurrected the term wordsmithing in his meeting with Gerhard Shroeder last week to disparage reporters who dwell on the minutiae of his pronouncements. Both leaders agreed that the United Nations should take a "vital role" or a "central role" under a UN umbrella although the exact mechanics would, of course, be "up to the diplomats to then sit down and nail down the whereabouts". If one can stomach the bonhomie and backslapping of the Anglo-German 'friendship', the divisions soon come to the fore. Blair was asked directly if he would join the meeting of 'Old Europe' on the 28th and set out his own support for a European security policy "fully consistent with and compatible with NATO". A very polite way of saying no!

Blair's meeting with Kofi Annan in Athens on the 16th April was just an enlightening in a bland way. Although the "important role" of the United Nations was reiterated, Blair now stated that its role would be expanded from humanitarian assistance to "political and reconstruction issues". This expansion was conditional upon a partnership between Europe and America over Iraq and shows an astute politician supporting multilateral institutions in Iraq, knowing that his rhetorical objective could be undermined by the intransigence of the French and the Russians. In two months, Blair will state he supported the role of the United Nations in Iraq but this was halted by the intransigence of the other permanent Security Council members.

Blair's underlying philosophy runs true to form: a partnership between America and Europe underpinned by transatlantic ties. With the encouragement of 'New Europe' and the ambivalent role of Germany, Blair understands that no power within the European Union has an interest, at present, in pushing for an outright rupture.


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