[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 May, 2004, 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK
Blair dismisses Iraq 'divisions'
US troops in Baghdad
Are Washington and London at odds over control of troops?
Tony Blair has tried to stamp out reports of UK-US splits over the handover of power in Iraq.

At Wednesday's prime minister's questions, Mr Blair said the US and UK were "absolutely agreed" on the need for a full handover of sovereignty.

But after the handover, US and UK troops would keep their own commanders.

Earlier, America's Colin Powell seemed to distance himself from Mr Blair's statement that Iraqis would have "final political control" of coalition forces.

Prisons control

Speaking about his relationship with President George Bush, Mr Blair said: "We are both absolutely agreed that there should be full sovereignty transferred to the Iraqi people."

The new Iraqi government would take over strategic and political decisions but the ensuing military operations would be controlled by coalition commanders, he said.

"There is no question not merely of US or of UK troops not being able to protect themselves or their lives being put at risk or being anything other than under US or UK command."

There will be, everybody's agreed, a transfer of sovereignty on 30 June
John Prescott
Deputy Prime Minister

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy suggested Mr Blair had in a letter reneged on his assurance last week that the new Iraqi government would have control of the country's prisons after the handover.

Mr Blair countered that Iraqis would make the ultimate decisions but until they had enough prison officers there might be a division in responsibilities with the coalition forces.

The talk of a US/UK split came when Mr Blair told reporters at his monthly news conference on Tuesday the Iraqis would have a political veto over coalition force actions.

That British approach seemed at odds with the position later set out by US Secretary of State Mr Powell.

Media creation?

The secretary of state said US forces would take account of what the Iraqi government said at a political and military level.

But he continued: "If it comes down to the US armed forces protecting themselves or in some way accomplishing their mission in a way that might not be in total consonance with what the Iraqi interim government might want to do at a particular moment in time, US forces remain under US command."

BBC News Online world affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds says that the apparent differences between Washington and London in part reflect the differing political needs in each capital.

The British want to boost the status of the interim government, while the Americans want to emphasise the right of the multinational force to remain under its own command.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott branded reports of splits between London and Washington as "complete rubbish".

Mr Prescott accused the media of looking at the situation "through the prism of differences".


"There will be, everybody's agreed, a transfer of sovereignty on 30 June," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The deputy prime minister urged people to wait for the outcome of ongoing negotiations on the detailed arrangements.

The US-backed draft UN resolution on the power handover stressed the words "consent" and "coordination", he said.

Mr Powell had also previously said coalition troops would withdraw if asked by the new Iraqi government.

New forum?

The spokesman said that after the power transfer the Iraqi-headed security council would "agree and coordinate with the multi-national force the broad strategic approach to security".

That would include the balance of forces and their profile, he added.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell said it was difficult to square Mr Blair and Mr Powell's statements.

He told BBC News 24: "I hope now that serious efforts are going to be made as between London and Washington and perhaps more significantly in New York at the United Nations to get this right."

Sir Menzies suggested a solution might be a German plan to have a kind of Iraq Security Council, possibly including UN representatives, to defuse any differences.

The BBC's Melissa Bell
"Defence Secretary Colin Powell has insisted US troops will remain under US command"

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific