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Blair Urges Australia to 'Tough It Out' in Iraq


Visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair called on Australia Monday to remain steadfast in its commitment in Iraq as Australian opposition leaders push for the soonest possible return of troops stationed in the country.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in a key foreign policy speech before the Australian parliament Monday, said that now is not the time to disengage from the conflict in Iraq. He called on Australia - a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism - to "tough it out".

"This is not the time to walk away," said Mr. Blair. "This is the time for courage to see it through."

Australia's main opposition Labor Party is urging the government of Prime Minister John Howard to bring home 900 Australian troops in Iraq by May. Australia and Britain were the only nations to send troops to join the U.S. invasion of Iraq three years ago and still have forces there.

The opposition's call comes as rising violence in the country is raising fears of an Iraqi civil war.

In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Mr. Blair said that the insurgency in Iraq has failed to undermine Iraqis' desire for democracy.

"What has happened with this terrorism and insurgency is that it's tried to derail the political process and has failed so it's now turning to try to create sectarian strife," he said. "But it's not what the people want. What they want is a functioning democracy."

In his speech, Mr. Blair also said that Australia, Britain, the United States and their allies must win not just the "battle of arms" but also one of global democratic values - which he defined as fairness, justice and freedom.

"Wherever people live in fear, with no prospect of advance, we should be on their side in solidarity with them," said Mr. Blair.

He said while Iraq and Afghanistan are the key battlegrounds, the world must also pay attention to the same struggle elsewhere - in Sudan, Zimbabwe, Burma and North Korea.

Addressing anti-American feeling in parts of the world, the British leader warned that this battle for global values could not be won if the United States retreated into isolationism.

Mr. Blair, who received a standing ovation from Australian lawmakers, arrived in Australia Saturday and will visit New Zealand and Indonesia later this week.

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