Brown opens new chapter in UK-U.S. ties

July 30, 2007 - 0:0

LONDON (AP) -- As Prime Minister Gordon Brown prepared to visit the United States on Sunday, he said he plans to use the trip to strengthen what Britain already considers its ""most important bilateral relationship.""

""It is a relationship that is founded on our common values of liberty, opportunity and the dignity of the individual,"" Brown said in a statement. ""And because of the values we share, the relationship with the United States is not only strong, but can become stronger in the years ahead."" He denied speculation that the relationship was cooling. Brown's predecessor, Tony Blair, was often accused at home of being too compliant with the policies of President Bush, especially regarding the Iraq war. Some analysts have urged Brown to be more like Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill, who had closed ties with the U.S., but remained frank about their own goals and policies. Visits to Camp David and the United Nations, where Brown will make a speech, are highlights of the leader's first major overseas visit since he ended his 10-year wait to succeed Blair. Brown arrives with some thorny issues in his policy folder, not least the fate of Britain's remaining soldiers in Iraq. Military chiefs in London have said Britain is likely to hand over control of the southern Iraqi city of Basra to local forces by the end of the year, a move certain to spark a domestic clamor for more British troop withdrawals. Other difficult themes: the American push to build a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, Darfur's misery, and the status of the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo. Many analysts believe Brown is itching for the legitimacy bestowed by winning an electoral mandate. He got the keys to No. 10 Downing St. by securing his party's blessing after Blair stepped down — not through a popular vote. The Scot showed calm resolve when two failed car bombs were discovered in London's entertainment district on his second full day in office. A day later, he reassured the public when two men rammed a Jeep into Glasgow's airport. Brown's low-key authority was a departure from the hyperactive reaction from Blair's government to last summer's alleged plot to down U.S.-bound airliners, which tended to alarm the public rather than soothe it. Brown won over much of the media with a relaxed and confident performance at his first major news conference last week. But his high ratings appear to be due chiefly to his emphasis of substance over spin — a key change from Blair. In Washington, officials expressed optimism about warm ties between Bush and Brown. The two leaders have a ""very special important relationship,"" White House press secretary Tony Snow said Thursday. A Brown spokesman, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity, said the two ""have already established a rapport.