Britain revealed its increasing irritation with America over the war against terrorism yesterday when senior Government sources said that hawkish elements in the White House were using 'unnecessarily belligerent' language. |
Referring to President Bush's comment that Iraq, Iran and North Korea formed an 'axis of evil', Whitehall officials said that it was becoming increasingly difficult to back fully the US stance.
Peter Hain, the Europe Minister, strengthened the sense of growing tension when he said yesterday that Britain would not be America's 'patsy'.
While insisting that the Government was still a 'steadfast ally' of Washington, he said that Britain was independent when it came to foreign affairs.
His comments come the day after Chris Patten, the European Commissioner for international relations, who is known to be close to Tony Blair, attacked Washington for its 'absolutist and simplistic' approach.
'There is more to be said for trying to engage and to draw these societies into the international communities than to cut them off,' he said in an interview with The Guardian.
Lionel Jospin, the French Prime Minister, also warned the US not to give in to 'the strong temptation of unilateralism'.
Addressing a Fabian conference on world affairs, Hain highlighted the growing thaw in relations with both Iran and North Korea, despite the recent spat over the new British ambassador to Tehran.
The Iranian authorities have refused to accept the new ambassador, David Reddaway, accusing him of being 'a Jew' and in MI6. In a tit-for-tat move, Britain downgraded the Iranian ambassador to London to the status of charg? d'affaires.
'There are still elements in the US who want to act unilaterally rather than multilaterally, in isolation from, rather than in co-operation with, other nations,' Hain said. 'The question is how can we build on the international unity following September 11 to create a new world order shaped by our values of democracy, human rights, environmental protection, equality and justice."
Or, he asked, 'will it be shaped by a quite different agenda, driven by hawks on Capitol Hill, let off the hook by rejectionists and cynics worldwide?'
Privately, the Government is going much further in its criticism of US tactics and attempting to promote Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, who is seen as a restraining influence on Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary.
However, a source close to the Prime Minister said: 'We cannot engage in the type of megaphone diplomacy that Chris Patten has deployed. We have far more influence remaining inside the tent [with America] than outside it.'
Asked whether the 'axis of evil' comment had been a useful addition to the debate on terrorism, the official said: 'Let's put it this way, it is not phrase we would have used.'