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Blair refuses to pick up Bush war honor
Updated: 2004-08-23 13:16

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is refusing to fly to the United States to receive a medal bestowed on him by the nation for his support over last year's Iraq war.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) and US President George W. Bush [AFP/Fiel]
US President George W. Bush has put huge pressure on his closest ally to pick up the Congressional Medal of Honor in person, the Sunday Mirror quoted a senior British government source as saying.

Blair is immensely popular with large sections of the American public for his staunch support of the Iraq war and the White House believes a visit by the prime minister now would provide a much-needed boost to Bush's re-election campaign.

"There has been a lot of telephone traffic between the White House and Downing Street over the medal in recent week," the Sunday Mirror quoted a senior government source as saying.

"George Bush wants the prime minister to come to Washington and pick up the medal, which is the highest honour America can bestow on a foreigner.

"But he has refused for more than a year now and for good reason. He cannot possibly accept an award for the Iraq war when British and American troops continue to risk their lives there."

Blair is concerned also that a trip to the United States now would effectively be giving a boost to Bush ahead of November's presidential elections.

"The Democrats are watching the situation very carefully and there would be uproar if Tony travelled to Washington to meet (Republican) Bush so close to the presidential elections," the government source said.

"But Bush isn't letting up. The White House has already let it be known that they feel slighted because of this and believe they can use this to put pressure on Blair to get him out there."

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