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British PM-in-waiting for new War on Terror

January 08, 2007 13:17 IST

Britain seems set to break away from Prime Minister Tony Blair's strategy on the War on Terror, for which he has been universally lampooned as US President George Bush's pet poodle.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, who will take over as prime minister from Blair in the summer, has signaled his determination to chart a policy that will place Britain's national interest above its relationship with Washington, DC, reports The Telegraph, London.

Brown also painted his rival the prime minister into a corner, from where he had no choice but authorize 10 Downing Street to issue its first statement condemning former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's execution.

Blair had maintained a studied silence after video footage showed that Saddam was being riled by Shia guards prior to his hanging. But once Brown told BBC1's Sunday morning show that 10 Downing Street was obliged to issue a statement, the prime minister made it clear he thought the execution was handled in an 'unacceptable' manner. Blair is expected to make known his first official reaction this week, although its timing and mode are unclear.

Asked on BBC1 if he would work as closely with US President George Bush as the incumbent, Brown said he looked forward to working with the former, and also recognized the need for maintaining close links with America. But, he cautioned: 'Obviously people who know me know that I will speak my mind. I'll be very frank, the British national interest is what I and my colleagues are about.'

The War on Terror promises to be one area where there will be major differences between the two trans-Atlantic nations. Brown had backed the 2003 Iraq invasion, but now says he has since come to believe that brute military force, intelligence, security work and policing can achieve only so much – a stand that is bound to win many hearts in the Labour Party. It is only when world leaders triumph in a peaceful battle for hearts and minds that the fight to stop extremist terrorist activities could be won, he added.

According to Brown, the next chapter of the war on terror could use as its model the cultural war fought by the West against Communism in the 1940s and 1950s– indicating that Britain under him will not troop behind Washington, DC, into any rogue nation.

Brown also insisted that he would stick to his earlier plan to reduce the number of British soldiers in Iraq by the thousands before the year is over, this coming at the start of a week in which the US will start sending three more brigades to Iraq. Britain currently has 7000 soldiers fighting in that country compared to 132,000 Americans.

A Correspondent