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Bush, Blair Hail 'Strong' Alliance

Dr. Nathaniel Cruz of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, PAGASA, points to the exact location of typhoon Mirinae, locally named "Santi," during a news briefing Friday, Oct. 30, 2009 at Manila's Quezon city in the Philippines. The typhoon, packing 150 kph winds, is expected to make landfall Saturday at the eastern portion of the country's main island of Luzon and is also forecast to hit Manila. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
AP Photo/Bullit Marquez
President Bush, meeting with top war ally British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said Thursday that coalition forces were "advancing day by day" through Iraq. He and Blair demanded that the United Nations' "Oil for Food" program be immediately restored.

And if it seems to some that the war is running a lot longer than expected, British Prime Minister Tony Blair blames the media.

"Because of the way it's reported you've got this constant 24 hours-of-the-day media, it may seem to people that it's a lot longer than just under a week," he said. "But actually it's just under a week.

Actually, it's been just over a week since President Bush announced the start of the war, reports CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller. But like the president, Blair said there is no point in setting a time limit; the job of ousting Saddam Hussein and disarming Iraq will be done however long it takes.

Blair, standing alongside Mr. Bush at the president's mountaintop retreat, declared that "Saddam Hussein and his hateful regime will be removed from power."

"Iraq will be disarmed of weapons of mass destruction. And the Iraqi people will be freed. That is our commitment. That is our determination, and we will see it done," Blair added.

In fact the British leader said "an enormous" amount has already been accomplished by U.S. and British forces, despite some fierce battles.

Blair said he and the president had decided to seek new U.N. resolutions on humanitarian relief, a postwar administration for Iraq and a promise to keep Iraq's territorial boundaries intact.

Mr. Bush and Blair were briefed on the progress of the war in Iraq after a week of fierce combat, meeting amid growing signs Iraqi forces have dug in for a prolonged fight.

About 60 percent of Iraq's 22 million people are fed through the U.N.'s oil-for-food program that began in 1996. Under the program, Iraq is allowed to sell unlimited quantities of oil as long as the money goes mainly to buy food, medicine and other humanitarian goods for Iraq's people.

But the U.N. Security Council has been bitterly divided over the decision by the United States, Britain and Spain to attack Iraq, and that division has spilled over into negotiations to revise the program.

Blair has advocated a far more aggressive role for the United Nations in administering postwar Iraq than has President Bush.

"No doubt, the United Nations has got to be closely involved in this process," Blair said. He said he and Mr. Bush agreed on "principles," but that there were "a huge amount of details ... that have to be the subject of discussion."

President Bush was asked whether the war would last months, not weeks.

"However long it takes to win. However long it takes to achieve our objective. However long it takes," he replied. "It's not a matter of timetable, it's a matter of victory."

Said Blair: "It's not set by time, it's set by the nature of the job."

The president said anew that any Iraqi that launched chemical or biological weapons against U.S.-led forces "will be tried as a war criminal."

Blair referred to the deaths of two British soldiers, saying they had been executed. "It is an act of cruelty beyond all human comprehension," the prime minister said.

Both Mr. Bush and Blair addressed the lack of support among many traditional allies in war.

"There are many people on our side, there are those that oppose us," Blair acknowledged.

But he also said, "I have no doubt that we are doing the right thing, I have no doubt that our cause is just."

President Bush insisted, "We have plenty of Western allies. We can give you a list."

In their talks Thursday, Blair and Mr. Bush also were looking beyond the conflict to a rebuilding phase, both for Iraq and for U.S.-Europe relations. And they were discussing how best to move humanitarian supplies such as food into war-torn regions of Iraq.

Blair, under fire at home for supporting the invasion of Iraq, is pressing for a strong U.N. role in rebuilding. And he says the United States and its allies must broaden their agenda beyond Iraq to help build peace in the Middle East and across the globe.

"I will see President Bush at Camp David to discuss not just the military campaign but also the diplomatic implications of recent events for the future — in particular, how we get America and Europe working again together as partners and not as rivals," he said before leaving for the United States.

Mr. Bush arrived at Camp David in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains on Wednesday afternoon in a driving rain, following a quick trip to Florida. He sought to rally the troops and the American people behind the Iraq war at a time when U.S. forces are suffering casualties.

"I can assure you there will be a day of reckoning for Iraq, and that day is drawing near," the president told hundreds of cheering American troops and their families in a packed hangar at MacDill Air Force Base, the headquarters of Central Command, which is overseeing the war.

In London on Wednesday, Blair faced pointed questions in the House of Commons, underlining persistent skepticism in Britain about U.S. intentions in Iraq, the Middle East and in global diplomacy generally.

Blair said Wednesday that President Bush, at a U.S.-British-Spanish summit in the Azores just before the Iraqi war began, had pledged to seek U.N. support for reconstruction.

Earlier, Blair — Mr. Bush's strongest ally — said there must be "a discussion and, indeed, a reckoning about the relations between America and Europe."

Thursday's Bush-Blair meeting came 60 years after President Roosevelt met Winston Churchill at the Maryland presidential retreat in the depths of World War II.

Churchill was the first foreign leader to visit a U.S. president at Camp David. At their summit in May 1943, the getaway was still known as Shangri-La.