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Blair Remains Unapologetic on Iraq War - 2003-09-28


British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who faces increasing criticism for going to war in Iraq, again defended his decision Sunday. Mr. Blair made the comments on the eve of the annual conference of his Labor Party.

After 10 years as party leader and six years as prime minister, Tony Blair is being battered by criticism on a daily basis, mostly over why Britain went to war.

"They can attack me as much as they want," Mr. Blair said. "I believe we did the right thing. I believe that our British troops performed absolutely heroically there. I do not apologize for Iraq. I am proud of what we have done."

Interviewed by the BBC on the eve of the Labor Party conference in the southern coastal town of Bournemouth, Mr. Blair looks increasingly out of step with the country, and appears increasingly isolated within the ranks of his ruling party. The prime minister said he continues to do what he thinks is right, especially when it comes to countries like Iraq. "I believe this threat of terrorism linked to these repressive states is the security threat of the 21st century," Mr. Blair said.

But after five months of searching, no weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, the main reason given by Mr. Blair for joining the United States in launching an attack on Saddam Hussein.

His approval ratings have plummeted in recent months. An opinion poll commissioned by the News of the World newspaper found that 64 percent of voters surveyed no longer trust the British leader.

A poll in the Observer newspaper of 300 Labor Party members found that 41 percent want Tony Blair to step down before the next general election.

Parliamentary politicians within Mr. Blair's party reflect the mood of the country.

A quarter of those recently surveyed by the Guardian newspaper said their leader should quit now, and one-half of his parliament members want Mr. Blair to depart before the next general election, which must be called within the next two-and-a-half years.

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