LONDON – Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday played down apparent differences between Britain and the United States over how much say the future Iraqi government should have on operations by coalition troops.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Blair rebuffed a comment by Labour Party lawmaker Anne Campbell (search) that she was "very pleased to see that there are policy differences between himself and President Bush on the subject of Iraq."
"I am sorry to have to disappoint my honorable friend," Blair said, "I have to say to her that we are both absolutely agreed that there should be full sovereignty transferred to the Iraq people and the multinational force should remain under American command. That is natural since they have the vast bulk of the soldiers."
London and Washington appeared divided Tuesday over whether the Iraqis should be able to veto activities by coalition forces after the June 30 transfer of sovereignty.
Blair said Tuesday that Iraqis should have the final say over any major U.S.-led military operations. The "final political control as to whether you go into a place like Fallujah (search) in a particular way — that has to be done with the consent of the Iraqi government," Blair said.
But Secretary of State Colin Powell said that "if it comes down to the United States armed forces protecting themselves or in some way accomplishing their mission" in a way not in accord with the Iraqis, the U.S. forces "will do what is necessary to protect themselves."
"There is absolutely no doubt at all that the new Iraqi government has to have full sovereignty, but the multinational force remains by consent," Blair told lawmakers Wednesday .
"The ultimate strategic and political decision-making passes to the Iraqi government after June 30.
"Of course, once the strategic decisions have been made, the running of any operation is under the multinational force.
"There is no question not merely of the U.S. but of U.K. troops not being able to protect themselves or their lives being put at risk or being under anything else than U.S. or U.K. command," he said.
Adnan Pachachi (search), a leading member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, said Tuesday he wanted the U.N. resolution to spell out the relationship between multinational troops and the interim government.
"We want to make it absolutely clear that the multinational force is in Iraq with the consent of the Iraqi government and that its operations and activities will be conducted in agreement and consultation with the Iraqi government," Pachachi told the BBC. "It is our understanding that any operations would have to have the approval of the Iraqi government."