Blair heads to Washington for Bush talks

Tony Blair is flying to Washington today to hold talks with George Bush over the new Iraq government, the Middle East peace process and Iran.

He will give the US president an update on his meeting with new Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday, and at a press conference this evening the two men will call for international support for the new government in Baghdad.

Tomorrow, Mr Blair will deliver a major speech on foreign policy on how “global values” such as democracy and the rule of law are applied, looking at everything from interventions in Kosovo to a broader policy towards Africa and climate change.

The prime minister will make particular reference to how the election of a new government in Iraq provides a direction for other states, building on his comments made earlier this week alongside Mr al-Maliki.

“This [Iraqi] government, if it can succeed, becomes not just a symbol of hope for Iraq but for the whole of this region,” Mr Blair told reporters on Monday.

“It is non-sectarian, it crosses all the divides, it espouses the doctrine of equality and justice for all people whatever their background and it is genuinely democratic.”

These values were the subject of a similar speech in Australia in March, where Mr Blair insisted: “The struggle in our world today therefore is not just about security, it is a struggle about values.To win, we have to win the battle of values, as much as arms.”

President Bush has also had talks with new Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert in the past week, and the violence in the Palestinian territories is likely to be on the agenda in his discussions with Mr Blair.

Yesterday, the prime minister’s spokesman said Mr Blair agreed with what was said by the US and Israeli leaders that “the first priority was to try to get negotiations with the Palestinians – that gave a responsibility to the Israeli said”.

“There was equally a responsibility on the Palestinian side to enter those talks on a realistic basis and that realistic basis had to be an acknowledgement that the outcome would be a two state solution,” he added.

In addition, Mr Blair will tomorrow set out his belief in global institutions such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation (WTO), although the spokesman noted he would explain how they “need to be updated from how they were designed immediately after world war deal with modern challenges”.

The press conference between Mr Blair and Mr Bush will be broadcast at 12.30 am tomorrow in the UK, a timing that analysts suspect has been designed to boost the US president’s ratings and at the same time try not to do too much damage to Mr Blair’s.

Going out at 7.30pm central time, it will be prime time in the US, whereas most Britons will be asleep and not see their prime minister stand side by side with a man who is increasingly unpopular in the UK.