The Times: Hillary Clinton hailed the historic special relationship between Britain and America yesterday as she flew into London on a whirlwind visit to consult on the crises in Afghanistan and Iran. The Times
Catherine Philp, Diplomatic Correspondent
Hillary Clinton hailed the historic special relationship between Britain and America yesterday as she flew into London on a whirlwind visit to consult on the crises in Afghanistan and Iran.
Mrs Clinton arrived on her first solo visit to London as Secretary of State amid mounting tensions over the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the future of Nato’s military campaign in Afghanistan, which is still to be decided after a doom-laden review by the United States’ most senior commander.
The notion of a special transatlantic relationship has taken a drubbing in recent weeks with the repeated snubbing of Gordon Brown by President Obama at the United Nations.
Aides to the Prime Minister revealed that he had tried on no fewer than five occasions to secure a one-on-one meeting with Mr Obama, but failed, having to settle for a walk-through of the kitchens at the UN headquarters.
The incident appeared to confirm the worst fears of Downing Street that President Obama’s embrace of a new multilateral world order would entail a downgrading of London’s special place by Washington’s side.
Yesterday Mrs Clinton rode to its rescue with a spirited defence of the transatlantic bond. At a press conference with David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, she spoke of the “historic importance of the special relationship between our two nations”, extending that description later to her relations with Mr Brown himself.
“I have a special personal relationship with the Prime Minister and of course I think it can’t be said often enough, we have a special relationship between our countries,” she said.
The topics of her discussion here were evidence enough of Washington’s need for a stalwart British ally. Her conversations were dominated by discussion over Afghanistan, where Mr Obama is mulling over demands for tens of thousands more troops. Britain has the second-largest military presence in Afghanistan after the US, with 9,000 troops in country.
Britain and America were working closely to ensure that their Afghanistan strategy was as “clear, as effective and as decisive as possible”, Mr Miliband said, after talks with Mrs Clinton. She reaffirmed the US commitment to the country and said that she was very clear that al-Qaeda posed a direct threat to the US and Britain.
Iran looms large over the European trip, with talks today in Moscow over Russian support for punishing new sanctions if diplomacy fails to force a halt to its suspected nuclear weapons programme.
Mrs Clinton paid tribute to the work of British intelligence in helping to build a picture of the uranium enrichment plant at Qom, the existence of which was revealed by the British, French and US leaders at the G20 last month and which has been credited for wringing more co-operation out of the regime in Tehran. She warned that the international community “would not wait indefinitely” for Iran to meet its international obligations. Mrs Clinton flew into London fresh from a diplomatic triumph in Switzerland, where she presided over the signing of an historic treaty between Turkey and Armenia — a moment nearly derailed by disagreement over the words to be used at the ceremony.