- A number of British newspapers are claiming British premier
Tony Blair suffered a humiliating setback on his visit to Russia during
which he hoped to persuade President Vladimir Putin to back a tough UN
resolution threatening force against Iraq.
- The right-wing Daily Mail reported that Blair had suffered
a "humiliating rebuff in his crusade against Saddam Hussein,"
adding that "his upbeat optimism that Moscow would back Britain and
the US over action ... was embarrassingly dashed."
- The tabloid said in an editorial: "Yesterday's debacle
in Russia is a damning indictment of the Foreign Office that so incompetently
misread the situation in Moscow."
- The Sun, Britain's biggest selling daily tabloid, said
Putin's "slap in the face for Tony Blair and (US President) George
Bush is just the news Saddam Hussein wants.
- "The more the world seems disunited in its approach
to Iraq, the more Saddam will feel he can call our bluff."
- Putin agreed Friday with Blair on the need for a tougher
UN resolution on weapons inspections in Iraq, but -- crucially -- rejected
the threat of force.
- After hours of closed-door talks that began Thursday,
Putin said Russia shared "apprehensions" about Baghdad's suspected
nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and thought a deal could
be struck on a new UN Security Council resolution.
- However, just after the talks ended, Russia's Deputy
Foreign Minister Yury Fedotov said Moscow would not accept a US-British
draft resolution threatening Iraq with military action if it does not cooperate
with weapons inspections.
- Blair had been "publicly rebuffed", according
to the left-of-centre Daily Mirror.
- But the tabloid, which warned that Bush was becoming
increasingly isolated in favouring an attack on Iraq to achieve "regime
change", added: "President Putin's 'no' is not a defeat for the
prime minister. It is a victory for common sense and Mr Blair should accept
it as that."
- "Putin puts down Blair over Iraq," was the
headline of The Times, while the Independent said Blair's Russian mission
- It added: "A downcast prime minister flew back from
Moscow knowing he had a diplomatic mountain to climb to persuade UN Security
Council members to issue an ultimatum for the Iraqis to comply with weapons
- The left-wing Guardian said it was "not entirely
clear" what the trip had achieved.
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