Brown in talks with Bush at White House

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown met with US President George W Bush at the White House on Thursday for a wide array of discussions ranging from the conflict in Iraq to the weakened global economy.

Brown earlier met separately with Democratic presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as well as with the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain. ( dpa )

Brown has adopted a more distant relationship to Bush than his predecessor, Tony Blair, in part by pledging to draw down the size of British forces in Iraq beyond 2,000. The move, however, was put on hold when violence broke out in southern Iraq last month.

Brown's desire to begin withdrawals in Iraq would be welcomed by Clinton and Obama, who have vowed on the campaign trail to outline a pullout plan after moving into the White House.

McCain backed Bush's troop surge and is more likely to stay the course in Iraq. The British embassy had not provided details of the meetings. The White House said Bush did not feel slighted over Brown's meetings with the candidates before meeting with the current president.

"It's probably a wise move by the prime minister to get to know who - one of the individuals who will likely be president in a year from now," spokesman Tony Fratto said. "So it makes sense."

Brown and Bush are also expected to discuss the war on terrorism and the effort to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

Brown, in an interview with CBS earlier this week, said he still believed invading Iraq was the right decision because Saddam Hussein "thwarted the will" of the United Nations.

"He was refusing to go with the promises he'd already made from the past, and I think the democracy that's been created in Iraq is far better than the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein," he said.

Brown has previously met Clinton and McCain. He praised McCain as a "great hero" for the courage he showed as a prisoner during the war in Vietnam and noted their previous discussion of the need to strengthen international institutions for improving global security.

Brown welcomed Clinton's campaign plan to shore up the sluggish US economy as a "very strong argument about what action has to be taken" to halt the economic woes.

Brown has never met Obama, calling it an "accident" but that he looks forward to meeting the candidate, who has a slight lead over Clinton for the Democratic nod.

"There's no doubt he has engaged a group of people in political action and consultation in America that previously had not been engaged and I think there are lessons for all of us in Europe," Brown said.

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