With praise for leadership that "has enabled us to begin the world over again," British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher bid farewell to President Reagan Wednesday and welcomed the election of George Bush as a sign of "stability and confidence."
"Thanks to your courage and leadership, the fire of individual freedom burns more brightly, not just in America but right across the world," she told Reagan. "We in Britain, Mr. President, have been proud to be your partners in that great adventure," she added.In an emotional parting of staunch like-minded allies, Thatcher and Reagan celebrated the achievements of their partnership after almost eight years of shared commitment to a strong defense and free-market economic principles.
Stressing steadfast solidarity, they characterized those policies as the engines of change since their first meeting in 1981, when the West faced economic crisis, political self-doubt and a mounting Soviet military threat.
Once confronted by "a decade frought with danger," Reagan told Thatcher that in meeting the challenges of the last eight years, "we have transformed that decade into a turning point - a turning point for our age and for all time."
From a 19-gun salute to a star-studded official dinner - the last of his presidency - Reagan accorded his friend and political soul mate to the fullest ceremonial honors and a personal tribute unsurpassed in his two terms.
European security, economic concerns and East-West relations were among the issues at hand. Yet from start to finish, their last official meeting revolved around personal tribute as much as political agreement.
During an Oval Office photo session, both told reporters the meeting was an occasion for "sad thoughts" but said their personal contacts would continue after Reagan leaves office in January. "President Reagan has a unique style which the world has come to know and love," Thatcher said.
Looking ahead to the Bush presidency, she welcomed the "continuity of policies" from one administration to the next and said, "That gives enormous stability and confidence to the feeling of the world."
Thatcher was one of two NATO leaders in town this week to look back on the Reagan presidency and ahead to the Bush administration; the other, West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, met with the president and vice president Tuesday.
With Reagan two months away from retirement and him and Bush three weeks away from a transition summit with Gorbachev, the Kohl and Thatcher trips bolstered a pledge of continuity in foreign affairs as the Oval Office changes hands.