UK's Brown to reject talk of rift in Bush talks
LONDON, July 27 (Reuters) Britain's new Prime Minister Gordon Brown will play down talk of a cooling of US-British relations in his first talks with President George W Bush next week -- but he will not want to be seen as ''America's poodle''.
Speeches by two of Brown's ministers have been seized on by some commentators as evidence that the month-old Brown government plans a shift in foreign policy away from the United States -- although Brown firmly denies it.
While Brown and Bush will stress London and Washington's ''special relationship'' is alive and well in talks at Camp David, the reserved Brown is unlikely to strike up the same close personal relationship with the US president that his predecessor, Tony Blair, enjoyed.
''They are going to say America is our best ally, it's crucial we have good relations. But expect a professional working relationship rather than ... a degree of personal chemistry,'' Strathclyde University politics professor John Curtice said.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, who will hold separate talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, dismissed talk of a cooling of relations, saying America's military and financial might meant London must keep a close partnership with Washington to achieve its goals.
''There isn't a single member of the government who is anti-American,'' he told Reuters in an interview while flying back to London from a visit to Islamabad.
Issues on the agenda for the Bush-Brown talks include global trade talks, climate change, as well as Darfur, Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Russia and Iran, Brown's spokesman said.
Brown has said Britain will abide by its United Nations' obligations in Iraq and there will be no immediate withdrawal of British troops, as some in the ruling Labour Party want.
On Iran, Brown said this week he would not rule out military action but believed sanctions could still persuade Tehran to drop its disputed nuclear programme.
PERSONAL BOND Bush and Blair's strong personal bond was forged in the aftermath of the Septeber 11 attacks on US cities and their decision to go to war in Iraq.
But the relentless bloodshed in Iraq contributed to Blair's downfall, fuelling a backlash from voters and his own party that forced him to step down early as prime minister a month ago and hand over the reins to his long-serving finance minister Brown.
The British press regularly mocked Blair as Bush's poodle, a label that did not go down well with the British public and Brown will be keen to distance himself from it.
''Brown has no 'poodle' baggage, no one's ever thought of him as a poodle,'' said Reginald Dale, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Brown has reversed the ruling party's slump since taking office, opening a lead in the opinion polls that has fired speculation he could call an early election.
Brown raised eyebrows by visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy before meeting Bush, but he has been cool towards the European Union in the past.
Talk of a shift in British foreign policy began with Brown's appointment as foreign minister of Miliband, who backed the Iraq war despite feeling uneasy about it.
Brown also gave a junior post to Mark Malloch Brown, a former UN deputy secretary general who has been critical of Britain and the United States over the war.
This month, Malloch Brown said it was unlikely Brown and Bush would be ''joined together at the hip'' as Blair and Bush had been and another minister told a Washington audience a country's strength depended on alliances rather than military might.
Reuters JT GC2334