PM urged to stand up to US

The New York Times is calling on Prime Minister Tony Blair to press US counterpart George Bush to tackle with renewed vigour a series of pressing issues affecting world stability.

The Times wants the US’ closest ally to deliver sterner words to the president on the UN’s role in Iraq, global warming and European and American food subsidies crippling developing nations.

Mr Blair stood “shoulder-to-shoulder” with the US during the 2003 Iraq war, despite criticism at home that he was blindly following every foreign policy initiative emanating from Washington.

But in an editorial entitled “Tony Blair’s troubles”, the paper says the PM ought to save his own reputation back home and act as a counterbalance to the leader of the world’s sole superpower.

The conspicuous lack of evidence on Iraq’s capacity to launch lethal weapons, the Dr Kelly tragedy, ministerial resignations and the slow pace of public services reform have together prompted the PM’s popularity among voters to plummet.

“Mr Blair’s grip on office doesn’t seem threatened. But his once legendary ability to sway public opinion has taken a large, and largely self-inflicted, hit.

“The next time Washington needs to borrow some of his credibility to broaden domestic support for its international policies, he may have little to spare.

“We credit the sincerity of Mr. Blair’s beliefs, but are troubled by the unworthy, and ultimately counterproductive, ways he used to advance them,” the paper said.

The PM would do well to distance himself from “American-style spin operations” and offer open challenges to Washington, the Times said.

Separately, John Houghton, a former key member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said global warming was a “weapon of mass destruction.”

He criticised the US for its abdication of responsibility in tackling global warming. Mr Blair was attacked too despite pledging to cut greenhouse gas emissions in line the Kyoto Agreement on Climate Change.