Blair is a ‘hero’ of Iraq’s freedom: Talabani


London : Iraqi President Jalal Talabani Friday hailed outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair as a "hero" of the liberation of Iraq and said he was "sorry that British boys and girls" were dying in Iraq.

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Talabani, after talks with Blair in London Friday, also said that progress had been made in some areas of Iraq, and he invited Blair to visit "to see the realities of all parts of Iraq."

At a joint news conference, Blair defended his decision to send British troops to Iraq, but conceded "things could have been done differently" after the toppling of ex-dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.

"But I don't think that alters the basic point of what is happening in Iraq today," Blair added.

Talabani described the removal of Saddam Hussein as a "big historic achievement" not only for Iraq, but also for the whole of the Middle East and Europe.

Terrorism was the "enemy of all countries," added Talabani, naming Morocco and Saudi Arabia as examples.

Blair said as long as "outsiders" were determined to "destroy" Iraq, Britain would support the country to defeat terrorism.

"Terrorists want to weaken our will, but we must redouble our efforts to beat them," Blair said.

Talabani said that Iraq had embarked on plans to achieve "real national reconciliation" that would lead to "real national unity."

The Iraqi president praised Blair, who will be leaving office at the end of June, as a "great leader of a great people."