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Sunday, 7 April, 2002, 11:42 GMT 12:42 UK
Bush and Blair's united stance
Tony Blair and George Bush
The two leaders presented a united front
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By Nick Assinder
BBC News Online's political correspondent, travelling with the prime minister

For the second time since 11 September, Tony Blair and George Bush have appeared standing shoulder to shoulder as allies united against global terrorism and aggression.

Interrupting hours of talks at the president's ranch in Texas - often with only the two of them present - they delivered some of the most powerful demands yet on the Israelis and the Palestinians to halt the bloodshed in the region.

And they again underlined their determination to "deal with" the problem of Iraq and Saddam Hussein's development of weapons of mass destruction.

They said their goal was the eventual removal of Saddam Hussein from power.

It was clear from the strength of their language on the Middle East that they expected the Israelis to start withdrawing from the occupied territories within hours.

The prime minister delayed finalising the details of a speech he is to make in Texas on Sunday morning in expectation of developments.

Action against Iraq

The two men also insisted they were still determined to move against Saddam Hussein.

In words that will spark alarm among many in Britain, they suggested tough action against Iraq was virtually inevitable, if not imminent.

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein
Both men said they were determined to take action against Saddam Hussein
The president was particularly robust in his condemnation of Saddam, insisting the world would be a better place without him.

The prime minister - clearly aware of the deep opposition at home - was more measured, but equally determined not to "duck" the issue of Iraq.

And that led to the belief that the aim of any future action will be the removal of the Iraqi leader.

'Enough is enough'

The two men came to Crawford against a backdrop of escalating violence in the Middle East and growing British opposition to military action against Saddam Hussein.

After President Bush's "enough is enough" message to the Israelis, and his decision to despatch Secretary of State Colin Powell to the region, there were fears that - in the intervening days - Ariel Sharon would escalate his attacks on the Palestinians.

Tony Blair was expected to use the talks - originally set to concentrate on Iraq - to press the president to keep up the pressure on Israel and be prepared to follow through with further action if it failed to toe the line.

The overriding aim of this summit has again been to display the strength of the bond between the two leaders

It now appears that the tough talking may have succeeded, at least with Israel. What remains unclear is what effect it has had on Yasser Arafat, who has been called on to end suicide bombings and terrorist attacks on Israel.

The words from President Bush during the press conference suggested he has run out of patience with Mr Arafat and no longer believes he is a man with whom he can do business.

He declared Mr Arafat had not lost his trust - simply because he had never earned it.

And he repeated his claim that the Palestinian leader had failed his own people.

Mr Blair was again less condemnatory, but it was clear Mr Arafat needs to make swift moves to retain his position as the man to talk to.

United stance

Once again, as in the immediate aftermath of 11 September, it was clear there was an unexpectedly strong alliance between Mr Bush and Mr Blair - both praising each other for their "courage and leadership".

Mr Blair and Mr Bush
Despite their differences, the two men have formed a strong alliance
This time, however, the differences were more obvious.

President Bush has been cautious about condemning Israel while Tony Blair is desperate not to enflame domestic opposition by agreeing military action against Saddam Hussein.

Mr Blair notably repeated time and again that all options against Saddam Hussein were still open. The president avoided similar phrases.

But the overriding aim of this summit has again been to display the strength of the bond between the two leaders.

What remains to be seen is how well that will now play back in Britain, now the immediate horror of 11 September has started to subside.

The BBC's Nick Robinson in Texas
"No grand summit this, just Bush and Blair"
Tim Reid, Washington Post
"The US sees Israel as a fellow victim of fundamentalist terror"
See also:

06 Apr 02 | Middle East
US and UK demand Israel pullout
06 Apr 02 | Americas
Allies sit down to 'mammoth task'
06 Apr 02 | Middle East
Battle rages in Palestinian camp
04 Apr 02 | Middle East
Bush intervenes in Mid-East crisis
03 Apr 02 | Middle East
EU proposes crisis diplomacy
06 Apr 02 | Middle East
Powell calls on Israel to withdraw
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