Awkward body language betrays the strain between Blair and Schröder

Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder agreed last night to work together to bring democracy to Iraq and to rebuild bridges between Europe and the United States in their first meeting since the war, but failed to mask their differences over the conflict.

Their rather awkward body language at a brief press conference in Hanover showed the strain caused by the Allied invasion had not yet eased.

Mr Schröder declined to endorse the military action by the United States and Britain. He said: "There will always be conflict over what form [the overthrow of a dictator] takes. I hope that the military gain in Iraq can be turned into a political gain for the people of Iraq and for the international community."

And while Mr Blair said the United Nations should have a "key role" in the reconstruction of Iraq, Mr Schröder said it should take place "under the UN umbrella" ­ an idea opposed by the US.

Mr Blair hoped that broad agreement could be reached on the UN's role with the details to be settled later. While admitting there were differences of opinion, the Prime Minister insisted that relations between the two nations were "extremely strong and will remain so".

Last night the two leaders travelled to Athens for a summit of EU leaders today, which will discuss the future of Iraq with Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general. The meeting was originally called to allow the signing of the deal under which 10 countries will join the EU in May next year. Their presence at the talks could revive the split over Iraq between "old" and "new" Europe, because several of the new members supported the war.

The Athens summit will also discuss the new blueprint for the EU being drawn up by a convention chaired by the former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing.

The split between Britain and the United States over how to deal with Syria deepened yesterday. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, refused to endorse Washington's description of Syria as a "rogue state". He said: "We use different descriptions ­ Syria has an opportunity to prove that it's not in that category."

Meanwhile, Jacques Chirac called President Bush for the first time in two months and seemed to scale back his demands for a central UN role in reconstruction. The conversation was "businesslike", according to Ari Fleischer, the White House spokesman. An Elysée Palace spokeswoman said France, which opposed the Iraq war, was ready to adopt a "pragmatic approach". Among the issues raised were Iraq's reconstruction, oil and international sanctions against it.

M. Chirac welcomed the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. His spokeswoman said he had suggested that the UN should be involved in Iraq "as soon as possible", but did not use the word "central". They agreed that Syria should not shelter Iraqi leaders, but M. Chirac urged that "nothing happens to increase tensions in the region".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson as Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey
Bafetibis Gomis of Swansea City is stretchered off at White Hart Lane
Jerry Seinfeld Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
peopleSitcom star urges men to be more supportive of women than ever
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
Jay Z
businessJay-Z's bid for Spotify rival could be blocked
footballLouis van Gaal is watching a different Manchester United and Wenger can still spring a surprise
The spider makes its break for freedom
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Arts and Entertainment
World Book Day
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United player ratings
Life and Style
love + sex
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accountant - ACCA, ACA or ACMA - Construction Sector

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Accountant (ACCA, ...

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Executive - PR and Broadcast - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has an exciting op...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor - Shifts

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This European market leader for security...

Recruitment Genius: Freelance AutoCAD Technician

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Freelance AutoCAD Technician is required to ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot