Blair visits Australia to see C'wealth Games, discuss Iraq

Published on Mar 25, 2006 06:45 PM IST

Tony Blair will watch the athletics finals at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday before attending a series of political events.

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None | ByAssociated Press, Melbourne

British Prime Minister Tony Blair was due in Australia Saturday to see some competition at the Commonwealth Games before attending a series of political events.

Blair was expected to watch the athletics finals at the Melbourne Cricket Ground late Saturday, and on Sunday meet British athletes in the games village and attend hockey games before returning the main stadium for the closing ceremony.

He travels to the Australian capital, Canberra, on Monday where he will address the federal parliament and hold talks with Prime Minister John Howard expected to focus on the Iraq war and other security issues.

Blair and Howard are key allies of Washington in its fight against terrorism and the Iraq war, each having sent troops to Iraq despite widespread opposition to the invasion at home.

Australia is Blair's first stop of a three-nation trip. The British prime minister, accompanied by his wife, Cherie, then will travel to New Zealand for the first visit by a British head of government since the 1950s. He is to visit Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, later in the week.

In Canberra, the Blairs are to visit the Australian War Memorial, which commemorates the country's involvement in conflicts including British empire wars, the two world wars and
Vietnam, and lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier.

Blair, a Labour leader, is to meet with the head of Australia's opposition Labor party, Kim Beazley, before holding talks with Howard.

In Auckland, Blair plans to hold talks with Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark. He will also hold talks with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta later in the week, officials said.

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