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Blair Defends Bush's Visit to Britain - 2003-11-19

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has strongly defended President Bush's visit to Britain. He told parliament the Anglo-American alliance is important for world security, which transcends differences on other issues.

The prime minister used his weekly "question time" appearance in parliament to deflect criticism that Britain gives up too much and get too little back in its relationship with the United States.

"I am sure everybody who has the best interests of this country at heart recognizes that the strength of the alliance between this country and the United States of America is important for world peace, world security, and the future of both our countries," he said.

He also blasted critics of the U.S.-led occupation in Iraq, and the efforts to build democracy there.

"What is happening out in Iraq. The people bombing the United Nations, the Red Cross, killing ordinary Iraqis, the people for example, who when we proposed an independent judiciary for Iraq then set out and assassinated two of the people who were nominated as judges," Tony Blair said. "The people who are killing people in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, other parts of this world in these appalling acts of terrorism, they are not the British, they are not the Americans, they are these appalling terrorists linked to some of these appalling regimes. And it really is about time we started to realize who our allies are, who our enemies are, stick with the one and fight the other."

The prime minister offered no hint that he expects progress on any of the more contentious issues between him and President Bush, such as U.S. steel tariffs and the detention of nine British citizens held as suspected terrorists by the U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

He said they will discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the prime minister indicated he sees no hope for the Roadmap to Middle East peace as long as suicide bombers continue to attack Israel.

"I do not believe we will see proper progress in the Middle East until we resolve that security situation, and we have to do it because that is in the interests, actually, in the end, of the Palestinians as well as the Israelis," he said.

As the prime minister spoke, British officials were dealing with a security breach at Buckingham Palace, where President Bush is staying as the guest of Queen Elizabeth.

A reporter for Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper says he used subterfuge to get a job in August as a footman on the royal household staff. He claims security was so inadequate he could have easily assassinated the president, his senior staff, or the queen.

Prime Minister Blair has ordered a sweeping review of royal security.

The breach is especially embarrassing at a time Britain is on high alert to protect President Bush from terrorists or unruly protesters.