Bush arrives in London with hopes of nurturing a 'special relationship'

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Indy Politics

George Bush arrives in Britain today hoping to use a fabled "special relationship" to deflect criticism from America's refusal to ratify the Kyoto climate-change treaty, and to secure backing for his "Son of Star Wars" proposal.

The US President will hold talks with Tony Blair and have lunch with the Queen tomorrow, before moving to Chequers for an overnight stay.

On Friday, the two leaders will travel to the G8 summit in Italy where Mr Bush is likely to face strong criticism – mostly over his withdrawal from the global warming treaty and his decision to press ahead with defence testing that breaches the 1972 anti-ballistic missile treaty.

Mr Blair is expected to urge America to take parallel action to cut emissions in line with the Kyoto treaty it refuses to sign. On missile defence, under pressure from Labour MPs hostile to the Strategic Defence Initiative, he intends to put off a decision for as long as possible.

But last weekend's successful "Star Wars" test in California means the moment of reckoning for the Government has moved a step nearer. Mr Blair is likely to give his backing. This week, he is expected to say Britain shares the "Star Wars" objective of combating the threat from rogue states.

Though Mr Bush does not have the relationship with Mr Blair enjoyed by his predecessor Bill Clinton, America still looks to Britain for support. Before he left, Mr Bush said that he believed the so-called special relationship between the two countries was as strong as ever. "I think of it [as healthy]. The Prime Minister and I talk quite frequently on issues that are of concern to world peace. We don't agree on every single detail of issues, but we do agree that the relationship is special and unique. And I think it is very strong."

Mr Bush said he would defend his position on Kyoto and missile defence. He said: "People shouldn't doubt where the US stands. And I made those positions on principle. In principle, it's important for us to develop a new strategic framework to make the world more peaceful."

¿ Three Britons are among 15 people facing up to 11 years in jail after a Greenpeace protest against the first "Son of Star Wars" test. Those facing charges of "violating a safety zone" include the former Independent photographer Steve Morgan.

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