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Wednesday, 7 February, 2001, 02:09 GMT
US-UK bond remains strong - Cook
British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Mr Cook and Mr Powell will continue to consult each other
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has described the United States as Britain's "oldest friend and closest ally" during a visit to Washington.

He also said the two countries' foreign policy goals remained compatible under the Bush administration.

Mr Cook met his counterpart, US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Tuesday, and the pair discussed issues including controversial US plans for a missile defence system which may involve the use of British radar bases.

He told the BBC that he was "impressed" with Mr Powell and had heard nothing to support fears that US foreign policy would take an isolationist turn.

The United States is our closest ally, it is not in our interests that the United States should feel vulnerable

Robin Cook
Prime Minister Tony Blair will become the first European leader to meet President George W Bush when he visits the US capital later this month.

Mr Cook said that Mr Powell "values the close alliance the United States has with Britain".

"I believe that today we have established a good basis for a relationship of trust and of confidence," he told the BBC.

'Special relationship'

At a joint news conference held after their 105-minute meeting, the two ministers dismissed speculation about potential problems in their "special relationship" such as Washington's concern over the proposed European rapid reaction force.

Britain has pledged 12,500 soldiers for the force by 2003 but Mr Cook said the initiative would be "securely anchored" on Nato.

Mr Powell added that he was sure "a common understanding" could be achieved.

RAF Fylingdales
The Fylingdales radar base could be used in the missile defence system
European powers have also voiced concern over President Bush's enthusiasm for the national missile defence system (NMD) which aims to counter attacks from "rogue states".

If fully implemented, NMD may need to use the Fylingdales early warning radar base in North Yorkshire - raising fears that this would make the UK itself a target.

Mr Cook said although no request had been made as yet, he was confident Britain would be fully consulted and he hinted that any such proposal would be met favourably.

United front

"The United States is our closest ally, it is not in our interests that the United States should feel vulnerable or should feel insecure and we shall consider very carefully any request made to us.

"But no request has been made nor do we yet know if the system will require it," he said.

Mr Cook and Mr Powell also presented a united front on the implications of the Lockerbie trial verdict.

They repeated demands that Libya accept responsibility for the 1988 bombing and pay compensation to the victims.

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See also:

03 Feb 01 | Americas
US confronts 'Star Wars' fears
30 Jan 01 | Americas
Europe opposes US missile defence
20 Jan 01 | UK Politics
'No change' in US-UK relations
16 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Cook hails Powell as 'good friend'
16 Dec 00 | Americas
Colin Powell: Bush's trump card
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