Switch focus from US to EU, Blair told

LONDON - British prime minister Tony Blair's foreign policy has failed because of his inability to influence Washington and his successor must carve out a leading role for the UK within Europe instead of as an ally of the US, a report said yesterday.

LONDON - British prime minister Tony Blair's foreign policy has failed because of his inability to influence Washington and his successor must carve out a leading role for the UK within Europe instead of as an ally of the US, a report said yesterday.

The Chatham House think-tank said in a wide-ranging analysis of Blair's foreign policy that he was the first to recognise how the US would react to the September 11 attacks but made a huge mistake by backing its war on Iraq.

The influential institute said the prime minister had erred in failing to coordinate a European response that might have tempered Washington's actions.

Chatham House concluded that the US-led invasion of Iraq was a "terrible mistake" leading to a "debacle" that will have repercussions on policy for years.

"The root failure [of Blair's foreign policy] has been the inability to influence the Bush administration in any significant way despite the sacrifice - military, political and financial - that the United Kingdom has made," the report said.

"Tony Blair has learnt the hard way that loyalty in international politics counts for very little," it said.

Blair has been forced to say he will step down next year after a decade in power, partly in response to public and Labour Party anger over his unflagging support for the Iraq war.

British foreign secretary Margaret Beckett said the report was "ridiculously wrong".

"The notion that we don't have any influence [in the Middle East] or that we don't have any influence in the European Union, or that we don't have any influence in the United States is just not true," she said in a recent radio interview.

"When it comes to the governments, the negotiators, the people who are trying to do deals, people who are trying to bring things together [with them], Tony Blair's influence continues to be substantial."- Reuters

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