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Blair Dismisses Deadline to Resign


British Prime Minister Tony Blair has rejected suggestions he set a date to resign, following his party's dismal showing in elections last week, and a string of embarrassing scandals.

Mr. Blair has announced at his monthly news conference he has no intention of stepping down any time soon, despite calls from inside his party to fix a date for his departure.

"To state a timetable now would simply paralyze the proper working of government, put at risk the necessary changes we are making for Britain, and, therefore, damage the country," said Mr. Blair. "It would not end this distraction, but take it to a new level."

The prime minister says he remains committed to handing over power eventually to his Treasury chief, Gordon Brown, and in time to prepare for the next general election, which is due by the middle of 2010.

"I have said I will ensure a stable and orderly transition," said Mr. Blair. "I will do it with the time necessary for my successor to establish themselves. But in the meantime, if we want to win a fourth term, we should concentrate on governing, because I think most people out there are fed up with the endless speculation."

Mr. Blair has been the most successful Labor leader in the 100-year history of the party. He has led Labor to three consecutive general-election victories.

But the party suffered badly in local elections in England last week, which came after revelations that more than one-thousand foreign-national convicts had been released from British jails without being deported. It was also learned that Mr. Blair's deputy had carried on an affair with his secretary.

The prime minister responded last Friday by overhauling his Cabinet, including the demotion of Jack Straw from foreign secretary to leader of the House of Commons.

At his news conference, Mr. Blair rejected speculation that Straw was dumped because he had called talk of a U.S. attack on Iran "inconceivable."

"Any notion that it is linked to a decision about invading Iran - which, incidentally, we are not going to do - any notion that it is linked to such a decision is utterly absurd," he said.

It is not clear what Mr. Blair meant when he mentioned an invasion of Iran. Recent media reports on the subject have focused on possible air and missile strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, not an invasion by ground forces. U.S. officials emphasize that diplomacy has not been exhausted in dealing with Iran's nuclear program.

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