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Blair Delivers Impassioned Speech to US Congress


British Prime Minister Tony Blair has delivered an impassioned defense of the war in Iraq, saying history will forgive the United States and Britain if weapons of mass destruction are not found. His speech to a joint meeting of the U.S Congress comes amid controversy in London and Washington over questionable pre-war intelligence about Iraq's nuclear ambitions.

Prime Minister Blair says the war in Iraq was justified, even if weapons of mass destruction are not found.

"If we are wrong, we will have destroyed a threat that, at its least is responsible for inhuman carnage and suffering," he said. "That is something I am confident history will forgive."

Mr. Blair said failure to confront the threat posed by Iraq would have been something that history would not forgive.

Prime Minister Blair and President Bush cited Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as the key reason for going to war. But such weapons have yet to be found. Both leaders have been accused of manipulating intelligence to justify invading Iraq, a charge they vehemently deny.

In his speech, the first by a British Prime Minister since Margaret Thatcher in 1985, Mr. Blair vowed that Britain and the United States would stay the course in Iraq until the job is done.

"We promised Iraq democratic government," he said. "We will deliver it."

The prime minister received a warm welcome on Capitol Hill, with his speech interrupted repeatedly by applause and standing ovations. It was reception very different than the one he has been getting in his own parliament.

Many U.S. lawmakers describe Mr. Blair as 'courageous' for going against popular opinion at home to side with the United States on the war in Iraq.

But back in London, Mr. Blair is seen as too close to the United States, with critics branding him MR. Bush's 'poodle'.

In an effort to prove such critics wrong, he offered some gentle criticism to the Bush administration.

He urged the United States not to bear grudges against traditional European allies that opposed the war. 'Don't give up on Europe', he said. 'Work with it'.

He made reference to the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions to control climate change, from which the Bush administration has withdrawn to the anger of many U.S. allies. He warned that 'climate change, deforestation and the voracious drain on natural resources cannot be ignored.'

"If this seems a long way from the threat of terror and weapons of mass destruction, it is only to say again that the world's security cannot be protected without the world's heart being won," he said. "So America must listen as well as lead."

Mr. Blair also said the United States must remain committed to the Middle East peace process, which he said is important to the fight against terrorism.

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to award the prime minister the Congressional Gold Medal for his loyal support. But the honor will be bestowed at a later date. Congressional sources say work to create the medal has not been completed.

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