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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 June, 2004, 13:02 GMT 14:02 UK
Nato's happier family?
By Nick Assinder
BBC News Online political correspondent, in Istanbul

They call it the family photo - when summit leaders gather together to smile for the cameras and show what a happy, united bunch they are.

And so it was in Istanbul as the Nato gathering drew to a close under blazing sunshine and amid the sort of surroundings travel agents would chop off their left arms for.

Istanbul summit family shot
A huge turnout for "family" photo
This one was in marked contrast to previous summits, particularly the recent Brussels EU meeting where Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac's smiles were through jaw-threateningly gritted teeth.

There was some genuine cause for celebration - at least for the prime minister and President Bush.

The Istanbul summit was all about the "historic" handover of sovereignty to Iraq - and that had been achieved pretty much as planned.

It remains to be seen whether that is more than a symbolic handover, as the prime minister and president insist.

But, nevertheless, it is a hugely important development as far as their domestic agendas are concerned.

France firm

So the two men stood there for the cameras, not exactly shoulder to shoulder, but united in their relief that this summit had ended without any major upset and the job done.

Jacques Chirac was there too, also smiling and betraying none of the apparent irritation and opposition he has expressed to the US-UK approach to Iraq.

Blair and Bush at a Nato session
A thoughtful moment

France is not going to train large numbers of Iraqi troops inside the country and it remains unclear precisely how wide its role will be.

There is absolutely no question of them putting ground troops into Iraq, as President Bush at least would have dearly loved.

But there was no great shouting match and there were no real sulks.

The closest came when Mr Chirac, in effect, told the president to keep his nose out of EU business after Mr Bush urged Europe to get on with the job of allowing Turkey into the club.

Yellow taxis

And there were suggestions that Afghan leader Hamid Karzai had hoped for even more Nato troops to be sent to his country to ensure security in the run up to September's elections.

Asked that question, and standing alongside Mr Blair, the Afghan leader said: "If I stood here and said I was less than satisfied it would be ungrateful."

To a large extent, however, these questions were overshadowed by the desire for Nato to show it still mattered and could handle these sorts of affairs.

The jury may still be out on that, much as it is on the UN in some quarters.

But as the leaders boarded their homeward jets and hundreds of journalists' wheelie-suitcases squeaked towards Istanbul's yellow taxis, Bush and Blair at least could feel things had gone pretty much to plan.

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