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Britain's PM Agrees, War in Iraq Not Being Won

In remarks Wednesday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair agreed with U.S. Defense Secretary nominee Robert Gates that the war in Iraq is not being won. For VOA News, Tom Rivers reports from London.

During his weekly question time session in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Blair was asked if he agreed with the assessment made Tuesday by Defense Secretary nominee Robert Gates that the U.S.-led coalition was not winning the war in Iraq.

"Of course. In July, I said myself that the situation in Baghdad with sectarian killing was appalling and that the bloodshed was appalling," he said. "And what is important, however, is he went on to say that we do go on to succeed in the mission that we have set ourselves."

In a heated exchange in parliament, the leader the Liberal Democrats, Menzies Campbell, chided Mr. Blair for, in his view, not having an independent view on Iraq separate from the stance of the U.S. administration.

He said, "Let me say this to the prime minister, isn't it clear that the British government has no policy of its own in relation to Iraq and that we are wholly dependent upon the decisions taken in Washington? What sort of strategy is that and what sort of legacy is that?"

"It is precisely because we believe in supporting the Iraqi government that has asked for our presence down in the south of Iraq in order to make sure that we protect Iraqi people until the Iraqis have the capability to do that we remain in Iraq," said Blair.

"As progressively the Iraqis are capable of taking on their own security, as now they are doing in two out of the four provinces and in one-half of Basra and now we are completing the mission in the other half of Basra, then the need for British troops diminishes," he continued.

But Mr. Blair did not focus all his attention on Iraq. He said renewed attention must now be focused on the Israel-Palestinian problem that he believes is a major factor behind the frustration and anger felt throughout the Middle East.

The prime minister will hold talks with President Bush Thursday in Washington. The key topic will be the Iraq Study Group recommendations and possible policy changes.

Mr. Blair has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with President Bush over Iraq and Britain has been the most important ally of the U.S. there.