New British FM to meet Clinton on Friday

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New British Foreign Secretary William Hague is to travel to Washington on Friday for talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, both sides said on Wednesday.

However, the two sides gave a different account of how the visit came up, with the Foreign Office saying Hague was invited to Washington and the US State Department saying it was Hague who proposed the visit.

"He offered to come on Friday and she accepted right on the spot and said 'we look forward to having you here,'" Clinton spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters, detailing the five-minute phone call between the two.

Crowley, who described the event a brief "congratulatory call," said Clinton told Hague she was "looking forward to working together.

"The foreign secretary gave her a little perspective on the negotiations that led to the coalition government that was formed in Britain," Crowley said.

In London, a Foreign Office spokesman said -- after Hague took office in a new coalition government led by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron -- that the pair had "spoken on the phone and she's invited him."

Hague said on Tuesday the new British government wanted a "solid but not slavish relationship" with the United States, stressing the importance of the relationship between the two countries.

US President Barack Obama was one of the first to call Cameron after he took office on Tuesday.

Hague added: "No doubt we will not agree on everything... But they remain, in intelligence matters, in nuclear matters, in international diplomacy, in what we are doing in Afghanistan, the indispensable partner of this country."

© 2010 AFP

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