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Blair Agrees War in Iraq Not Being Won
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British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Wednesday that he agreed with US Defense Secretary designate Robert Gates that the war in Iraq was not being won.

Challenged by Tory leader David Cameron in the House of Commons over Gates's remarks on the Iraq war, Blair said, "Of course. In July I said myself that the situation in Baghdad with sectarian killing was appalling and the bloodshed was appalling."

"What is important, however, is that we do go on to succeed in the mission that we have set ourselves," he told MPs at his routine weekly question time.

Blair's comments came shortly before his flight to Washington for talks with US President George W. Bush, and also just before the publication of a long-awaited report by the Iraq Study Group in the United States.

Blair said the governance and capability of the Iraqi government needed to be improved and the process of reconciliation carried through.

The allies have to pursue a policy for the "whole of the Middle East," said Blair.

This meant finding a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, which was "absolutely essential if we are to put that situation on a more stable footing," he added.

Last Monday, British Defense Secretary Des Browne said that British troops in Iraq would be "significantly lower by thousands "at the end of next year.

"In the end of course, it must depend on conditions on the ground, including the level of threat and the capacity of Iraqis to deal with it, and the final decision will be down to our commanders," Browne said.

Currently, Britain has some 7,000 troops in southern Iraq, most in the Basra area and around 800 in Maysan province. Since 2003, 126 British soldiers have been killed in Iraq.

(Xinhua News Agency December 7, 2006)

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