Page last updated at 23:57 GMT, Friday, 14 May 2010 00:57 UK

Early harmony in UK-US relations

Foreign Secretary William Hague and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton says she is intrigued, but unconcerned, by Britain's coalition

By James Robbins
Diplomatic correspondent, BBC News, in Washington

The extraordinary pace of political events in Britain over the past few days forced William Hague to take an unconventional route to Washington for his first overseas trip as foreign secretary.

The swearing in of new government ministers at Buckingham Palace early on Thursday evening, and the kissing of hands with the Queen meant Mr Hague needed to fly first to New York, and then catch the train to the nation's capital to see Hillary Clinton on Friday.

He attached enormous importance to the talks, as he told me while the train glided down the north-east corridor through Philadelphia and Baltimore.

President Obama, he pointed out, had been the first world leader to telephone David Cameron and congratulate him on becoming prime minister. Hillary Clinton had been the first to welcome him as foreign secretary.

Coalition 'chemistry'

What was this first meeting as direct counterparts like?

As William Hague and Hillary Clinton chatted for the cameras before their talks, it was clear she had been following developments in British politics very closely on television.

The US secretary of state said she was enthusiastic about the "chemistry" between Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as coalition partners - a chemistry the new foreign secretary hopes to develop with her.

Their discussions ranged widely across the really tough challenges they both face, above all in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and the Middle East.

Afterwards, both stressed their unity of approach on the war in Afghanistan and the need for further UN sanctions against Iran.

As for Britain's coalition, Hillary Clinton talked about being intrigued by this new incarnation of democracy in Britain.

I see nothing at all unusual about this new government and, from our perspective, it is off to a very strong start
Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State

She rejected any suggestion possible future splits at Westminster could threaten strong partnership with Washington.

I asked her if she worried at all that possible fractures in a coalition government could threaten the relationship with Britain, and America's ability to rely on Britain as a partner?

"The answer is no. I have absolutely no concerns whatsoever," she said.

"We don't formally have a coalition government in the way that you have formed one in the UK now, but we have enough of our own internal differences that we have to sort through.

"So I see nothing at all unusual about this new government and, from our perspective, it is off to a very strong start.

"And certainly on the foreign policy front, which I follow very closely, obviously, we are extremely pleased.

"And this meeting and discussion just confirmed our close partnership and our commitment to working together."

'No differences'

William Hague beamed. He talked about continuity and of following similar lines to the last Labour government when tackling the gravest threats.

"Everything I've said today about our approach to relations with the United States is an approach shared by the whole cabinet and I'm speaking on behalf of a united government," he said.

So the first signs are of the two foreign ministers in early harmony.

William Hague insists he would be more relaxed than the previous Labour governments ever were about possible differences with Washington but he is equally eager to point out that no such differences currently exist.



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SEE ALSO
Profile: William Hague
14 May 10 |  UK Politics
Hague holds talks in Washington
14 May 10 |  UK Politics


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