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CNN Today

Bush, British Prime Minister Meeting for First Time

Aired February 23, 2001 - 2:27 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: President Bush is playing host right now to Prime Minister Tony Blair at Camp David. It is Mr. Bush's first meeting with a European leader. The White House has not released the agenda, but the two men are expected to talk about, as Lou mentioned, the U.N. sanctions against Iraq, America's plan for a national missile defense program, trade relations between the two nations, and the peace process for Northern Ireland. The U.S. national security adviser says the two leaders will also review their joint air strikes against Iraq, which happened one week ago.

Let's go now to our senior White House correspondent John King, who's watching events near Camp David -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, an informal setting for this first meeting between President Bush and the Prime Minister Tony Blair. An informal setting -- Camp David, so the two men can get to know each other they chose that site. A full honor guard, though, on hand as the prime minister and his wife arrived and were greeted by president and Mrs. Bush. They then, after walking through that honor guard, hopped into some golf carts -- that's the mode of travel at Camp David -- and up to the president's cabin for those discussions.

Both leaders, as you mentioned, to discuss not only last week's military action against Iraq and British and U.S. cooperation in the continuing enforcement of the no-fly zones; both leaders also acknowledging, though, that even though they want to keep the sanctions in place -- some sanctions in place against the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein, that the current sanctions have not worked as well as both governments would have hoped. They're looking forward to a United Nations debate on that issue and hoping to work very closely together.

You also mentioned the Northern Ireland peace process. That one issue -- that is one issue in which Mr. Bush is unlikely to take as prominent a public role as did his predecessor, Mr. Clinton.

Now, these are two very different men; Mr. Blair from a left-of- center government in Great Britain, Mr. Bush from the Republican Party -- the conservative party here in the United States. But they do share this much in common as they try to get to get to know each other today. Recall President Bush, in recent days, has refused to talk at all about the controversy brewing around his predecessor Bill Clinton over the controversial pardons in the final days in office. Well, Mr. Blair was a close friend of the former president; but he, too, doesn't want to talk about the Clinton controversy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: As I've said to people before, and I said a couple of days ago, Bill Clinton is a friend of mine, he'll always stay a friend of mine; but I'm not getting into all the stuff that's in your newspapers at the moment, if you don't mind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: After the conversations this afternoon, the two couples will have dinner tonight at the Camp David retreat, also breakfast tomorrow before Mr. Blair heads back to London.

Again, the White House billing this as a getting-to-know-you session; however, especially because of the situation in Iraq, they say these men, as they get to know each other, have some very urgent issues to discuss -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And is this the first time they've ever met one another?

KING: Yes, it is indeed the first time they've met. They have spoken on the telephone during the presidential transition and since Mr. Bush took office, but it's the first time they have looked across a table at each other and met each other in person. And they chose Camp David because that's where Mr. Blair also came to meet President Clinton eight years ago.

ALLEN: All right; John King at the White House. Thank you John.

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