British Prime Minister Gordon Brown underscored on Monday that he was intent on preserving his country's close bond with the United States, as he conferred with President George W. Bush at Camp David.
But Brown is also expected to keep a distance from Bush on issues like Iraq in their two days of talks at the presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains, where they were meeting for the first time since Brown succeeded Tony Blair last month as prime minister.
The Iraq war, concerns about Iran's nuclear program, climate change and the effort to revive the Doha round of world trade talks are on the agenda. Brown also plans to seek support for a package of measures to try to end the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.
The reserved, somewhat formal Brown is seen as unlikely to form the kind of close bond that his gregarious predecessor had with Bush. At their first meeting, Bush famously remarked that he and Blair used the same brand of toothpaste.
Brown will be keen to avoid anything that might encourage the British media to tag him as America's poodle, the label reporters gave Blair, who stood shoulder to shoulder with Bush after the September 11 attacks and during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Blair's closeness to Bush angered the British public and contributed to his decision to step down early.
Still, U.S. and British officials have sought to play down any notion of a cooling in ties between their countries.
Invoking Winston Churchill's idea that Britain and the United States shared a joint inheritance, Brown expressed solidarity with America in fighting terrorism in an opinion piece in the Washington Post on Monday.
I believe our Atlantic partnership is rooted in something far more fundamental and lasting than common interests or even common history, Brown said. It is anchored in shared ideals that have for two centuries linked the destinies of our two countries.
SPECULATION OVER IRAQ
As he arrived on Sunday evening, Brown chatted with Bush about Camp David and its history and then the two dined on beef tenderloin and mashed potatoes. Cheeseburgers and french fries were on the menu for lunch on Monday.
Brown and Bush were to hold a news conference at 11: 25 a.m. EDT.
Speculation that Brown may want to end Britain's military involvement in Iraq has resurfaced with a report in the Sunday Times newspaper that Brown's chief foreign policy adviser had sounded out U.S. foreign policy experts on the possibility of an early British withdrawal.
Brown's spokesman said the prime minister would not unveil a plan to pull out British troops and said there had been no change in the government's position.
Aides to Brown say he wants to focus on ending the Darfur conflict and breaking a deadlock in the global trade talks.
Brown, with the support of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, is proposing a package of measures to try to end the conflict in Darfur.
It includes a United Nations Security Council resolution for an African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force, an immediate cease-fire, restarting a peace process and an economic aid package for Darfur, a British government source said.
It would also hold out the threat of sanctions against the Sudanese government if it failed to cooperate.
Brown will meet Democrat and Republican congressional leaders in Washington on Monday afternoon, his spokesman said.
On Tuesday, Brown will hold talks with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York and give a speech at the world body.