Politics: UK `must seek bigger reward for US support'

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TONY BLAIR came under pressure from senior MPs yesterday to get a bigger payback from the United States for his "shoulder-to-shoulder" support for President George Bush.

During a two-and-a-half-hour grilling by the Commons Liaison Committee of MPs, the Prime Minister was urged to press the US to match Britain's backing in Iraq by acting on issues such as climate change; poverty and debt; Africa; the Darfur crisis and the International Criminal Court.

Tony Baldry, Tory chairman of the International Development Committee, said: "We have to make it clear to the United States we expect them to be among the coalition of the concerned and support us as much as we support them."

Mr Blair replied: "I do not agree that there is a sort of quid pro quo here. I happen to be part of the coalition with America in respect of Afghanistan and Iraq because I believe in it on its own terms." He said he was optimistic that the US would back Britain's call for action on climate change.

Mr Blair announced that the Government would publish a timeline for US and British forces to withdraw from Iraq after a review by the retired US general Gary Luck, who has produced a draft report seen as a possible "exit strategy".

The Prime Minister said it was "difficult to foresee and difficult to plan for" the insurgency in Iraq, including "outside terrorists" such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He appeared to contradict last year's Butler inquiry, which revealed that British intelligence reported just before the war that Zarqawi had "established sleeper cells in Baghdad, to be activated during a US occupation".