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Blair Hails Iraq Election as 'Blow to Global Terrorism'

British Prime Minister Tony Blair calls the Iraq election a blow against global terrorism, and he vows to stand by Iraq as it moves to build a democracy. Mr. Blair also paid tribute to British military personnel who died in a plane crash on election day.

Mr. Blair made a nationally broadcast statement saying the force of freedom was felt throughout Iraq on election day. "It was moving and humbling for those of us lucky enough to live in a democracy and take it for granted, to see the enthusiasm and the simple determination, the clear sight of courage of millions of Iraqis that came out to vote for the first time in their lives, despite the terrorism, despite the threats, despite the dangers," he said.

The British leader also said the Iraq election will benefit all countries who are threatened by terrorism. "Democracy in Iraq is not just good for Iraq itself. It is also a blow right to the heart of the global terrorism that threatens destruction not just in Iraq but in Britain and virtually every major country around the world," he said.

Mr. Blair, who has suffered politically at home for his support of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, says Britain will remain engaged to help democracy grow in Iraq, to build up Iraqi security forces and work for the reconstruction of Iraq.

He also paid what he called "an immense debt of gratitude" to the British armed forces in Iraq, and said his thoughts and prayers are with the British troops who died in the crash of a military transport plane Sunday northwest of Baghdad.

A spokesman for the Royal Air Force, Wing Commander Nigel Arnold, said there are few details of the crash. "A C-130 aircraft from Royal Air Force Lyneham has crashed in northern Iraq. The incident occurred at 25 minutes past five local Iraqi time. We are in the process of contacting the families of those involved. And until that is done I'm afraid we will not be releasing any details of the crew. It would also be wrong of us at this stage to speculate on the cause of the crash. But we can assure you that a thorough investigation will take place," he said.

President Bush also spoke of the incident, saying he mourns the American and British military personnel who died on Sunday.

The U.S. military says the British plane's wreckage was spread over a wide area about 30 kilometers outside Baghdad, and American helicopters had gone to the scene of the crash.