Cameron forced to ease US fears over UK’s war budget

The government sought to reassure the US yesterday of its commitment as a military ally after Hillary Clinton expressed concern about the expected deep cuts in the defence budget.

The Prime Minister told General David Petraeus, the US commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan who was on a visit to London, that the UK will stay the course with the Afghan mission.

David Cameron was so concerned, said Downing Street, that he stepped in to ensure the cuts wouldn't be too severe: "The Prime Minister intervened to make sure the Treasury gave a figure that allowed them to do their job properly. He feels passionately about this subject."

Foreign Secretary William Hague held talks with Ms Clinton, the US Secretary of State, during a Nato summit in Brussels to stress that Britain would continue to provide a "flexible, highly deployable force" that "will remain, within the context of Nato, a military power of the first rank". Mr Hague insisted Washington had "a good understanding" of the UK's financial position. The Prime Minister's spokesman added the Government was "fully committed to Nato".

General Petraeus said after meeting the Prime Minister: "I have repeatedly received assurances that the support for Afghanistan is iron-clad, that it is 'fenced' if you will, and it will be forthcoming." He also disclosed he had telephoned the father of Linda Norgrove, the British aid worker killed during a US attempt to rescue her in Afghanistan, to offer condolences and promise an exhaustive inquiry into her death. He added it was"disturbing" it was not immediately made clear she may have been killed by an American's grenade.

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