John McCain praises British Forces’ sacrifices

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John McCain praises British Forces’ sacrifices

Post by Guest on Fri 21 Mar 2008, 3:12 pm

John McCain said yesterday that he favoured crop spraying in Afghanistan to eradicate poppies, a move that set him on a collision course with Britain.
Speaking after meeting Gordon Brown in Downing Street, the US Republican presidential candidate was at pains to emphasise the importance he attached to the “special relationship” with Britain. He also praised the “sacrifice” of British Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But in an interview with The Times, the Arizona senator admitted that he had a difference of opinion with Britain over how to curb poppy production in Afghanistan.

Britain is chiefly responsible for the anti-narcotics programme in Afghanistan, which yielded a record poppy production last year, much of it in Helmand province, where British Forces are concentrated.

“I do advocate eradication,” said Mr McCain. “I base it on long experience in Latin America [where America has pioneered aerial spraying of coca crops].”

But he conceded that eradication was not the only answer. “There is no perfect solution until farmers have a way to make a decent living [from something other than poppy],” he said.

Britain and the Afghan Government of President Karzai have been strong opponents of serious eradication of the poppy crop in Afghanistan, which produces 80 per cent of the world’s heroin. Last year’s crop was valued at £2 billion.

The British are concerned that it would force farmers into the arms of the Taleban, who are heavily involved in the drug trade.

Mr McCain also hinted at another area of potential disagreement should he become the next president in November’s elections.

He said that he was sceptical about a US intelligence assessment last year that concluded Iran had suspended its nuclear weapons programme, and that he would keep the military option against Tehran on the table.

“At the end of the day I do not believe that Iran should have nuclear weapons,” he said, giving warning that a nuclear-armed Tehran would threaten Israel, stability in the region and US national security in the Gulf.

He said that before taking the decision to use force he would exhaust all other options, which would include tightening sanctions against Tehran in conjunction with other Western allies.

Despite policy differences, Mr McCain was at pains not to criticise Britain’s performance in Iraq.

Mr McCain is a strong advocate of President Bush’s surge of 30,000 extra US troops into Iraq. During the same period, British Forces withdrew from the Iraqi city of Basra and were reduced in size.

Mr McCain said that it would be inappropriate for him to criticise the decision of the Government.

The senator’s trip to London followed a Middle East tour of Iraq, Jordan and Israel.

After meeting the Prime Minister, he held talks with David Cameron, the Conservative leader. Today he is due to meet President Sarkozy in Paris.

Source: Timesonline - http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article3593914.ece

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