- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 29, 2005

LONDON — British Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday that it was “vitally important” for coalition troops to remain in Iraq “until the job is done.”

“If we defeat these insurgents and terrorists in Iraq — and we’ll only defeat them with the Iraqi people — we will beat that terrorism and insurgency worldwide,” Mr. Blair told the Associated Press.

The prime minister’s comments came a day after President Bush, in a nationally televised address, promised to keep U.S. forces in Iraq until the fight is won.

“The most important thing we can do in Iraq is concentrate on the fact … that what is happening there is a monumental battle that affects our own security,” Mr. Blair said.

“You’ve got every bad element in the whole of the Middle East in Iraq trying to stop that country [from getting] on its feet and [becoming] a democracy.

“The world for both of us changed after September 11,” Mr. Blair said. “What happened for me after September 11 is that the balance of risk changed. I took the view that if these people ever got hold of nuclear, chemical or biological capability, they would probably use it.”

September 11 “changed the whole picture. It changed the politics of how we dealt with the threat. And I still believe in a time to come it will be seen as important that we took that decision.”

On the crisis facing the future of the European Union, Mr. Blair said its proposed constitution hinges on a change of heart in France and the Netherlands, where voters have resoundingly rejected the pact.

“The EU constitution depends on a change in the French and Dutch positions, so in a sense it is for them to come forward and say how this can be done before we can really know how that moves on,” he said.

EU leaders agreed at a summit earlier this month to freeze the ratification process for the constitution after the French and Dutch rejections. The talks ended in acrimony after Mr. Blair refused to surrender Britain’s annual rebate on payments to the European Union.

He said he would negotiate only if the 25-nation bloc agreed to phase out a budget heavily weighted toward agricultural subsidies, of which France is the main beneficiary.

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