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British PM Blair Vows to Serve Full Term if Re-Elected


British Prime Minister Tony Blair is dismissing speculation he could step down early and hand over his job to Treasury chief Gordon Brown, if his party wins next month's general election.

Mr. Blair has reaffirmed his commitment that May's election will be his last, but he says, if his Labor Party wins, he intends to serve a full term, which could run until 2010.

"I have said that this is my last election. At the election following, there will be a different leader," he said.

A reporter asked Mr. Blair if he would endorse Finance Minister Gordon Brown as his successor. Mr. Blair deflected the question.

Tony Blair, right, with Gordon Brown at London press conference
"Well, if you don't mind me saying this, I think, before any of us on this platform start discussing who should be the next prime minister, let's make sure I'm the next prime minister on May the fifth," he said.

Mr. Blair is facing his toughest electoral challenge since he led Labor to victory in 1997, and cruised to re-election in 2001.

Labor currently holds a 160-seat majority in parliament, but polls indicate the party could lose 90 or more of those seats next month.

While the campaign is focused on domestic issues, Mr. Blair's opponents in the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties have charged the prime minister cannot be trusted, mainly because of the way he handled the Iraq war.

Mr. Blair says he has no regrets about backing the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, even though pre-war intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction turned out to be false.

"I'm sorry, if people disagreed with it, and I'm sorry if they disagree with it still, but I can only tell you that I honestly believed then, and believe now, that it was the right thing to do," Mr. Blair says.

Mr. Blair spoke as Labor released an election manifesto trumpeting the government's economic accomplishments, and promising better public services from health care to education and policing.

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