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#1 Firecat


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Posted 04 January 2004 - 05:27 PM

Blair the lapdog travels to Iraq, sniffing dubya's behind.


British PM Makes Surprise Trip to Iraq

Sunday January 4, 2004 5:01 PM


Associated Press Writer

BASRA, Iraq (AP) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair, making a surprise visit Sunday to his nation's troops, said the invasion of Iraq would be a test case in the global fight against terror, while his top envoy in the country warned of bigger, more sophisticated resistance attacks.

Blair, who faced strong opposition at home for supporting the U.S.-led effort to oust Saddam Hussein, visited the southern city of Basra, the base for some 10,000 British troops, to thank the soldiers and meet with military commanders.

``This conflict here was a conflict of enormous importance because Iraq was a test case,'' he said. ``If we backed away from that, we would never be able to confront this threat in the other countries where it exists.''

Blair's representative in Iraq, meanwhile, said that the anti-American insurgency is getting more sophisticated and that he expects even bigger bombs in the future.

Sir Jeremy Greenstock spoke four days after a 500-pound car bomb killed eight people in an upscale restaurant in Baghdad, the capital, and coordinated strikes including four car bombs struck the southern city of Karbala on Dec. 27, killing 19 people and wounding more than 170.

``The opposition is getting more sophisticated, using bigger bombs and more sophisticated controls. We will go on seeing bigger bangs,'' Greenstock said.

He said he thought 75 percent to 80 percent of attacks are carried out by Saddam loyalists, and the rest by foreign terrorist groups.

In Tikrit on Sunday, an American soldier was shot and wounded during a foot patrol, said Maj. Josslyn Aberle, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division. He was in stable condition, she added.

Blair, who last visited Basra in May, said Saddam Hussein's regime ``had a proven record of use of weapons of mass destruction'' and that ``literally hundreds of thousands of its citizens died in prison camps.''

The United States and Britain cited Saddam's alleged programs to develop chemical, nuclear and biological weapons as a main justification for the war, but have come under criticism as no evidence has been found.

``No government that owes its position to the will of the people will spend billions of pounds on chemical and biological and nuclear weapons whilst their people live in poverty,'' Blair said.

``Brutal and repressive states that don't actually have the support or consent of their people that are developing weapons which can cause destruction on a massive scale are a huge, huge liability to the whole security of the world,'' he said.

He also referred to ``the virus of Islamic extremism that is a perversion of the true faith of Islam.''

Blair flew into Iraq's second-largest city by military aircraft from the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik, where he was on vacation with his family. A Flash Airlines jet taking off from the resort on Saturday crashed into the sea, killing all 148 people on board. The Egyptian government said the crash was an accident, not terrorism.

Blair visited a new police academy in the small town of Az Zubayr, where he watched Iraqi officers conduct self-defense training. He met British police officers and military police from Britain, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Italy.

In gray pants, a blue shirt and a navy jacket, Blair made the 10-minute flight to the academy from Basra in a British Army Air Corps Chinook helicopter guarded by rear and side machine gunners. Basra has been relatively peaceful, with most of Iraq's insurgents operate in Sunni Muslim areas west and north of Baghdad.

Later Blair met with the governor of Basra, Judge Wael Abdullatif, at one of Saddam's former palaces, a marble and mosaic expanse that is a base for Britain's 20th Armored Brigade.

Blair's trip follows President Bush's surprise Thanksgiving Day visit on Nov. 27 to Baghdad and a visit by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar on Dec. 20.
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