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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 November, 2003, 10:48 GMT
US press downplays Bush trip

By Jon Leyne
BBC correspondent in Washington

President Bush at Heathrow Airport
The president's arrival in the UK received little US press coverage
For all those who believe London is the centre of the world, the American papers have rather a rude shock today.

It seems the United States is not watching President Bush's every move in Britain.

Certainly none of the papers seems much interested in the trip.

In fact, it barely makes it into the headlines.

In the New York Times, for example, the presidential visit only gets a mention behind the latest court ruling on gay marriage, a story on textile imports from China and an analysis of the impact of Nafta on Mexico - that's the North American Free Trade Agreement, if you didn't know.

In the Washington Post, Mr Bush's trip to London is deemed less important than a new push by the United States for UN support in Iraq - less significant than a look at the latest American military offensive in Iraq.

The Los Angeles Times is far more preoccupied with the inauguration of Arnold Schwarzenegger and a police raid on Michael Jackson's Neverland ranch.

'Goodwill squandered'

As for the reports that do make it into the papers, the New York Times quotes the ubiquitous senior administration official to the effect that Mr Bush will try to reassure Britain and Europe that he is not the cowboy unilateralist that he is made out to be.

But, says the paper, the visit is rife with political implications for both Mr Bush and Tony Blair.

Pictures of large-scale demonstrations against the president are sure to be used by Democrats back home to buttress their case that Mr Bush has shattered international alliances and squandered goodwill towards the US, or so the New York Times believes.

In passing, the paper also points out that the schedule will be dominated by the kind of pomp the president typically disdains.

British detainees

The Washington Post, traditionally a paper close to the seat of power, says White House officials have warned against expecting any significant developments during the visit.

In particular, the White House officials tell the paper not to expect any new agreement to end trade disputes or to settle the controversy over British detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay.

As for the Boston Globe, the other big American East Coast paper, it doesn't seem much concerned by the visit at all, except to mention in passing that the self-styled domestic goddess, Nigella Lawson, will be in the kitchen when the president comes to lunch at Number 10.

Apparently she may turn to one of her favourite recipes, Happiness Soup.

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