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
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?