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Prime Minister Blair and Iraqi President Talabani Hold Talks


British Prime Minister Tony Blair says insurgents will not deter Britain's commitment to a secure and democratic Iraq. Mr. Blair made those comments alongside Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, during a joint news conference at 9 Downing Street. Mr. Blair confirmed that his government is looking into a possible Iranian connection to insurgent attacks on British forces.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani both said the multinational force must stay the course in Iraq, as long as insurgents attempt to disrupt the nation's new democracy.

Mr. Talabani said next week's national referendum in Iraq on a draft constitution marks a milestone in his nation's eclipsing decades of repression under Saddam Hussein. "It contains many values that Iraqis have fought and sacrificed for -- it lays a new foundation for their country -- a foundation based on the values of democracy and freedom."

Mr. Blair also acknowledged, when asked by a reporter, that his country is investigating evidence that Iran, or the Lebanese Hezbollah organization, may be linked to new explosive devices used in attacks on British forces in Iraq.

Wednesday, the British government's Press Association cited a senior British government official as saying Britian believed Iran's Revolutionary Guard supplied explosives technology to insurgents in Iraq, which was used to kill eight British soldiers this summer. Tehran's Foreign Ministry dismissed the allegations Wednesday, saying Britain should provide evidence, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

At Thursday's news conference, Mr. Blair declined to offer specifics, but issued a stern warning to Iran, saying the presence of multinational troops has the support of the United Nations. "There is no justification for any country, Iran or any other country in the region, interfering or encouraging terrorism against our forces there."

Mr. Talabani said Iranian sources he spoke to denied the allegations.

He also thanked Mr. Blair for repeating his promise not to set a timetable for the removal of British troops from Iraq, saying, for now, those troops are still needed.

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