Blair Suffers 'Humiliating
Rebuff' From Putin Over Iraq

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 had failed.
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 inspections."
The left-wing Guardian said it was "not entirely clear" what the trip had achieved.
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