Britain will continue to support Iraq: Blair


Baghdad : Outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a surprise visit to Iraq Saturday and said he had "no doubt" that Britain would continue its support for Iraq after his departure.

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Blair held talks with Iraqi President Jalal Talbani and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Blair, who leaves office June 27, said: "I've no doubt at all that Britain will remain steadfast in its support for the Iraqi people.

"The policy I introduced is a policy for the whole of the government. Even when I leave office I'm sure that will continue," the BBC quoted him as saying.

Blair, who will be succeeded by Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, said he has seen "real signs of change and progress" in the conflict-torn country.

"There are things as you will know that are happening in different parts of Iraq that do give us some pause for hope," Blair said, adding that "it is important that we continue to take whatever action necessary against Al Qaeda or against anyone who would use violence and terrorism to thwart the progress of the country."

Blair, on his seventh visit, arrived in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone just hours after a rocket attack on it. He was also expected to visit British forces in Basra, 550 km south of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, in a radio interview with the BBC aired Saturday, former US president Jimmy Carter criticised what he called Blair's "apparently subservient" support of current President George W. Bush in the 2003 US-led war in Iraq.

In a powerful attack on the outgoing premier, Carter called the support "blind". Blair's support for Bush's "ill-advised policies" had been "a major tragedy for the world", said Carter, US president from 1976 to 1981.