Blair Plans To Mend US-Europe Rift

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:11 PM EDT

London ( - In an interview published Tuesday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he's making it his mission to defuse lingering tensions between the United States and Europe, and that reports of a growing rift are an "exaggeration."

"I regard it as one of my tasks to say to people the whole time, don't pull apart Europe and America," Blair told The Times newspaper. "The only people that rejoice in those circumstances are the bad guys."

After a period of solidarity following Sept. 11, relations between the United States and its Western European allies have been edgy. Unity in the war on terror has been overshadowed by the next direction of the war and issues such as the International Criminal Court and steel tariffs.

When U.S. officials made the decision to impose steel tariffs in March, the European Union replied with its own sanctions and threats to impose duties that experts say are calculated to hurt President Bush's standing in swing states.

"We've got this dispute with trade, but let's not be under any doubt that basically we are all in favour of the same economic system," Blair said.

The prime minister called the U.S. Farm Bill "not helpful" but said that European Union agricultural subsidies were also at fault.

"The Common Agricultural Policy is the wrong policy. It's anti-free trade, it's a waste of money and it isn't fair to the developing world, so we've got our own issues to deal with," he said.

Blair said European anti-Americanism was driven by jealousy and "worry about American culture dominating European culture."

"America is the world superpower. Anyone who is pre-eminent always takes a bit of flak," he said.

The interview came as President Bush is due in Europe Wednesday for a trip that will take him to Berlin, Paris, Rome and Moscow.

During a speech to the German Parliament on Thursday, Bush is expected to take a tough line on Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Police in the European capitals are bracing for protests during Bush's visit.

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