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    Bush Says Iraq Policy Not Hurt by British Transition of Power

    President Bush is losing his strongest ally on Iraq. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, is stepping down at a time of slipping approval in Britain for the Iraq war.

    Prime Minister Blair has stood with the United States throughout the Iraq conflict, and has worked closely with President Bush.

    "I'll miss Tony Blair," said President Bush. "He is a political figure who is capable of thinking over the horizon. He's a long-term thinker. I have found him to be a man who's kept his word, which sometimes is rare in the political circles I run in."

    Mr. Blair's decision to step down comes at a time when some public opinion surveys in Britain put support for the war at under 30 percent. But President Bush - speaking to reporters after a briefing at the Pentagon - indicated he is optimistic there will be no change in British policy on Iraq.

    "I believe that the relationship between Great Britain and America is a vital relationship," he said. "It is a relationship that has stood the test of time, and when America and Great Britain work together, we can accomplish important objectives."

    The president predicted he will be able to work well with the new prime minister. All indications are the ruling Labor Party will choose treasury chief Gordon Brown. Mr. Bush said Brown well understands all that is at stake in Iraq.

    "I believe he understand the consequences of failure," admitted Mr. Bush.

    President Bush was also asked about the change of power in France, and prospects for improved ties under President-elect Nicholas Sarkozy.

    "We will have our differences, and we will have our agreements," he said. "And I am looking forward to working with him."

    Next month, Mr. Sarkozy will represent France for the first time at the Group of Eight summit in Germany. It will also be the last such gathering for Tony Blair, who leaves office officially on June 27.

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