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Special Relationship: Spectre of Iraq War haunts Trump-May summit

Theresa May will be the first world leader to meet Trump as President [Getty/AFP]

Date of publication: 27 January, 2017

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British Prime Minister Theresa May has said the days of "failed" UK-US military interventionism are over ahead of a much-anticipated meeting with the new US President.
The spectre of the Bush-Blair "special relationship" will rear its head on Friday as British Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump hold face-to-face talks.

On the eve of their highly-anticipated meeting, the Conservative leader said the two countries "have a joint responsibility to lead", but not as they did before.

Speaking to Republicans in Philadelphia, May said the days of the UK and US military interventions "to remake the world in our own image" were "decisively over" - referring to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

She said the two countries must "renew the special relationship for this new age" and "lead together, again".

But in a contradictory remark, she said they should not "stand idly by when the threat is real".

"We must demonstrate the resolve necessary to stand up for our interests," she said.

"And whether it is the security of Israel in the Middle East or Estonia in the Baltic states, we must always stand up for our friends and allies in democratic countries that find themselves in tough neighbourhoods too."

The visit - the first time a world leader is to meet Trump since his inauguration as 45th US President - comes amid controversial comments about waterboarding.

Asked about Trump's remarks on her flight to the US, the PM told journalists that the UK condemns torture and "my view on that won't change - whether I am talking to you or talking to the president".

The prime minister also spoke in support of NATO - which Trump has called "obsolete" - and the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump threatened to scrap during his election campaign.

May said care must be taken to distinguish between "extreme and hateful ideology" of Islamist extremism and the "peaceful religion of Islam and the hundreds of millions of its adherents - including millions of our own citizens and those further afield who are so often the first victims of this ideology's terror".

May also pointed to the need to "reduce Iran's malign influence in the Middle East" as a key foreign policy priority, saying Britain would "support our allies in the Gulf States to push back against Iran's aggressive efforts to build an arc of influence from Tehran through to the Mediterranean". 

GCC states and Britain in December agreed to a "strategic partnership" and said they "oppose and will work together to counter Iran's destabilising activities".

May has also come under increased pressure from her own government to speak out over Bahrain's human rights record.

The leaders will hold a joint press conference at 6pm GMT.

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