Bush to Share Iraq Ideas With Brown

LONDON -- Heading into two days of talks, U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown planned to swap strategies on how to reduce their military forces in Iraq and halt Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The two leaders will also discuss Middle East peace, climate change, trade and Northern Ireland governance, Bush's national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, told reporters traveling with the president Sunday.

Bush began his day with a bike ride and a church service in Paris, then shifted to London as his weeklong European trip neared its end.

He visited Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle, was to meet privately with British troops and have a social dinner Sunday evening with Brown and his wife, Sarah, at Downing Street. Bush and Brown were also meeting Monday in London and traveling to Northern Ireland.

On the day Bush got to London, a British newspaper prominently reported that the president, in an interview earlier in the week, had delivered a warning to Brown about additional reductions of British forces in Iraq. The Observer story said Bush's words amounted to a "stern message" to Brown.

The White House quickly countered, insisting that Bush and Brown remain in accord about how Iraq.

"What the president said is what the president has been saying and Prime Minister Brown has been saying from the very beginning," Hadley told reporters traveling on Air Force One. "Obviously, we all want to begin to bring the troops home, but we all recognize we can only do that as they succeed."

Brown's Downing Street office concurred, saying it was not British policy to set "arbitrary timetables."

In the White House transcript of the interview, Bush said there should be "no definitive timetable" for troop withdrawals and that the reduction of forces should be based only on success in improving security.

He said that, from his perspective, that's how Brown was approaching the matter, too.

"I am confident that he, like me, will listen to our commanders to make sure that the sacrifices that have gone forward won't be unraveled by drawdowns that may not be warranted at this point in time," Bush said.

In Northern Ireland, where Protestants and Catholics have a power-sharing agreement after years of violent conflict, Bush plans to discuss the overdue devolution of police and justice responsibilities to Northern Ireland authorities. Bush will encourage the setting of a firm date for this, Hadley said.

The quick stop in Northern Ireland on Monday will be the last on Bush's trip. He has also been to Slovenia, Germany, Italy and France.