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Blair Named Mideast Envoy, Brown Takes Over As Britain's PM


Gordon Brown took over as Britain's new prime minister after his long-time political friend and rival, Tony Blair stepped down just hours earlier, after 10 years in office. VOA's Sonja Pace reports from London on the transfer of power and on Mr. Blair's appointment as special international peace envoy to the Middle East.

It was a day of political tradition, ceremony and drama, the official transfer of power from one prime minister to another.

Returning from his meeting with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace, Gordon Brown came to his new official residency, Number 10 Downing Street, and promised new priorities.

"I have just accepted the invitation of her Majesty the Queen to form a new government," said Mr. Brown. "This will be a new government with new priorities."

Mr. Brown vowed to reach out beyond what he called narrow party interests.

Just hours earlier, his predecessor, Tony Blair made his last appearance in the House of Commons.

Mr. Blair opened the session on a sober note, expressing condolences to the families of three British servicemen killed in action.

"I am truly sorry about the dangers they face today in Afghanistan and Iraq. I know some people think they face these dangers in vain. I don't and I never will," said Mr. Blair.

Mr. Blair has remained steadfast in his support for intervention in Afghanistan and in Iraq, even amid increasing public opposition.

Over the years, he faced many tough questions in this chamber, especially from the opposition Conservative party.

Yet on this day, there were also tributes, including from Conservative party leader, David Cameron.

"For 13 years he has led his party, for 10 years he has led our country and no one can be in any doubt in terms of the huge efforts he has made, in terms of public service," said Mr. Cameron. "He has considerable achievements to his credit, whether it is peace in Northern Ireland, whether it is his work in the developing world, which I know will endure."

And, in the end Mr. Blair also paid tribute to his colleagues in the House of Commons.

"I can pay the House the greatest compliment I can by saying that from the first to last I never stopped fearing it," he added. "That tingling apprehension that I felt at three minutes to twelve today I felt as much 10 years ago and every bit as acute. And it is in that fear, the respect is contained."

Amid a standing ovation in the House of Commons, Tony Blair left the chamber. He returned to 10 Downing Street for final farewells to staff member before heading to Buckingham Palace to formally hand in his resignation to the Queen.

Shortly thereafter, Gordon Brown was summoned for a private audience with the Queen to be confirmed as Britain's new prime minister.

And, within hours the announcement from the United Nations that Tony Blair has been named as representative to the so-called Middle East Quartet - made up of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations. The Quartet seeks to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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