LONDON — Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak were all smiles as they met in London on Monday — but concerns over the United States’ decision to send cluster bombs to Ukraine persisted.

Britain’s prime minister told the US president on Monday that Britain “will meet its obligations” under a treaty banning the production or use of the controversial munitions, according to Sunak’s official spokesman.

Publicly, the two leaders – meeting for the sixth time since Sunak became prime minister last year – showed a united front ahead of this week’s NATO summit in Vilnius.

Speaking to reporters in Downing Street, Biden said he “couldn’t meet a closer friend and a greater ally.”

In a meeting that lasted just 40 minutes and saw the couple drinking tea in the garden of 10 Downing Street, the US president and UK prime minister reaffirmed what Biden called their “as strong as possible” relationship. the rock” between the two countries.

“We are two of the strongest allies in this alliance and I know we will want to do everything we can to strengthen Euro-Atlantic security,” Sunak said.

But the US decision to arm Ukraine with cluster bombs as part of its latest weapons package has already driven a wedge between NATO nations ahead of the summit.

Sunak pointedly said over the weekend that the UK ‘discourages’ the use of weapons – and his spokesman reiterated that stance during a briefing after the Biden-Sunak meeting, saying the prime minister had raised the matter directly with the American president.

Britain is one of more than 100 countries to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits “the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians”.

“As for ammunition, I think the first thing to say is that it was a tough choice for the United States that was forced upon them by Russia’s war of aggression,” the carrier said. Sunak’s word to reporters.

But they added: “As the Prime Minister said over the weekend, the UK is a state party to the convention on cluster munitions. … They discussed the UK’s commitment under this convention, both not to produce cluster munitions and to discourage their use.

Asked if Sunak had “fulfilled his duty” to discourage the use of weapons at Biden’s meeting, the spokesperson replied, “Yes. They discussed the requirements to which the Prime Minister is subject because of this convention, and the United Kingdom respects it.

Ukraine’s goal of joining NATO will be another key theme at this week’s summit. Biden said in an interview on Sunday that Ukraine was “not ready” to join the military alliance, arguing that membership could only be considered once the war is over.

Sunak’s spokesman said on Monday that the UK’s “long-held position” on Ukraine’s NATO membership – wholeheartedly backing Kiev’s bid – had not changed.

He said: “The Prime Minister believes and has said before that Ukraine’s rightful place is in NATO and we want to work with the United States and our allies on the path for Ukraine to join this alliance. . »

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