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Blair Cites Progress in Iraq Despite Death of Another British Soldier - 2003-11-05

Britain has announced the death of another serviceman in Iraq, but Prime Minister Tony Blair says there is progress toward restoring normalcy there, despite increasing violence.

Prime Minister Blair has told parliament the latest British war casualty in Iraq, Corporal Ian Plank, was a greatly admired and widely respected member of the Royal Marines.

The defense ministry says Corporal Plank was killed by hostile fire last week, the 52nd British serviceman to die in Iraq since the invasion in March.

Prime Minister Blair blames the ongoing violence in Iraq on small groups of Saddam Hussein supporters and foreign terrorists who have infiltrated since the invasion. He says there is a lot at stake in defeating them.

"If we can make Iraq better, if we can show that the propaganda about us seizing the oil or desiring to destroy the Muslim population, if we can expose that as the propaganda and lies that it is, then of course the signal that will send across the whole of the world," Mr. Blair said, "and not least in the Arab world and the Muslim world, will be enormous, tremendous and positive in its impact, and that is precisely why these people are in Iraq at the moment. They know that this is a battle not just about the future of Iraq, but a battle about whether we can establish a situation where Iraq becomes a prosperous, democratic, stable state and then acts, if you like, as a beacon to the rest of the world."

In a related development, British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon says 12,000 British troops remain in Iraq, down from 30,000 who joined the invasion. Mr. Hoon told an interviewer the British military has spent $5 billion on the conflict since March, but he expects those costs to begin declining soon.