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Close links to Bush 'part of job': Blair

British Prime Minister Tony Blair shrugged off criticism of his close alliance with US President George W Bush.
PTI | By Agence France-Presse, London
PUBLISHED ON NOV 11, 2004 06:27 PM IST

British Prime Minister Tony Blair shrugged off criticism of his close alliance with US President George W Bush on Thursday ahead of a visit to Washington, calling such links "part of the job".

"The relationship between Britain and the US is fantastically important," Blair said in an interview with the GMTV television programme ahead of his departure for the United States on Thursday afternoon.

"It is a huge strength of this country to have that relationship, and if we are confronting this threat of terrorism in the world, it is important we confront it together.

"You know, I think there always is, and always should be, a situation in which the British prime minister and the American president get on well together. I regard it as part of my job," he said.

Blair will become the first foreign leader to meet Bush since the US president's re-election last week when the pair hold talks at the White House on Friday. The British premier has been Bush's strongest international ally over the US-led war in Iraq, something which has cost him dearly in terms of popular support, especially following a recent spate of British military casualties.

Blair told GMTV that events such as the current US military assault on the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah meant the British public was getting a "one-sided picture" of events in Iraq. "Fourteen out of 18 provinces in Iraq don't have these great problems," he said. "But there are these areas like Fallujah, which the terrorists have been using as a base for activity, and it is important we go in there and make sure they can't because we want elections to happen in Iraq."

Blair has long argued that London's so-called "special relationship" with the United States means he can exert influence over Bush in areas such as Middle East peace and climate change. However, critics have dismissed Blair's clout as negligible, putting pressure on the British premier to return from Washington with some tangible results.

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