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Britain's Tony Blair Bows Out; Gordon Brown Becomes New British Prime Minister


After a decade in power, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has stepped down, handing in his resignation to Queen Elizabeth, who called in Gordon Brown to confirm him as Britain's next prime minister. VOA's Sonja Pace reports from London on what is being described as the end of an era.

It was a day of political tradition, ceremony and drama.

For the last time Tony Blair faced questions 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," said Mr. Blair. "I know some people think they face these dangers in vain. I do not and I never will."

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

During his term he faced many tough questions in the 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 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."

Mr. Blair refused to be drawn out over speculation he would shortly be named as special envoy for the Middle East Quartet - made up of the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

But he talked about a broad international consensus of what it will take to find a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"The only way of bringing stability and peace to the Middle East is a two-state solution, which means a state of Israel that is secure and confident of its security and a Palestinian state not merely viable in terms of its territory, but in terms of its institutions and governance," he said. "I believe it is possible to do that, but it will require a huge intensity of focus and work."

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 said. "That tingling apprehension that I felt at three minutes to 12 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 Buckhingham Palace to formally hand in his resignation to Queen Elizabeth.

As the new leader of the Labour Party, Gordon Brown succeeds Mr. Blair as prime minister.

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