President bites back and stands up for his 'poodle'

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The Independent US

It is a question that has dogged Tony Blair and he seemed to cringe as President Bush had a stab at answering it.

It is a question that has dogged Tony Blair and he seemed to cringe as President Bush had a stab at answering it.

"The prime minister is sometimes, perhaps unfairly, characterised in Britain as your poodle," began the questioner. "I was wondering if that's the way you may see your relationship? And perhaps, more seriously, do you feel for the ..."

Mr Blair broke in: "Don't answer 'yes' to that question," he urged, prompting laughter.

The president, however, had already decided such a serious charge required a stern response from him.

"Plenty capable of making his own mind. He's a strong, capable man," he barked. "When times get tough he doesn't wilt. You know, when the criticism starts to come his way - I suspect that might be happening on occasion - he stands for what he believes in."

Mr Blair appeared uncomfortable but was seemingly in no mood to roll over.

"As long as I remain Prime Minister of our country it will carry on being strong - not because that's in the interests of America simply or in the interests of the international community, but because I believe passionately it is in the interest of Britain," he said.

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