Blair to push for fresh plan for peace in Iraq

By Ben Hall and James Blitz in London
Published: November 17 2003 20:52 | Last Updated: November 18 2003 15:14

Tony Blair is pressing for the US and UK to adopt a fresh strategy to bring peace to Iraq, with greater involvement for Iraqis in their political future and more proactive diplomacy with the country's neighbours.

As Mr Blair prepares to greet George W. Bush on Tuesday at the start of a three-day state visit to London, Downing Street said it wants the US president's trip to spell out how the coalition is fleshing out a strategy for Iraq that goes beyond military operations.

In London, the Metropolitan police, which has cancelled all leave for the state visit that starts when Mr Bush flies into Heathrow later on Tuesday evening, has raised the number of shifts worked by officers from 5,000 to 14,000 during the four days he is in London amid security fears over mass protests. (Read more about the security operation.)

In Iraq, US troops continued to strike insurgents overnight with air, artillery and mortar bombs in central Iraq. (Read more about the military operations overnight.)

On the diplomatic front, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the prime minister's special envoy to Iraq, spelled out the UK's concerns that the coalition strategy must now go beyond military logistics, embracing a more concerted political, economic and diplomatic approach.

"In this part of the world you have to show strength," Sir Jeremy told reporters. But he said the coalition needed a strategy of "political outreach" to the Iraqi people, economic regeneration, "good diplomacy" with Iraq's neighbours, greater control of Iraqi arms dumps and the acceleration of efforts to establish Iraqi civil defence.

He also said that special efforts must be made to show the Sunni minority that it had a political and economic stake in the future of the country, he said.

Under the accelerated timetable to an Iraqi transitional administration unveiled in Washington last week, the US-UK occupation would end by June 30 next year.

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