British prime minister makes final visit to Iraq

( AP ) - Outgoing British leader Tony Blair arrived in Iraq on Saturday for his seventh - and final - visit as prime minister, hoping to press Baghdad to call new provincial elections and increase efforts to bring those linked to violence into the political process.

Blair, who was making an unannounced visit before he steps down from office in June, also planned to reassure Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that his departure will not bring an end to Britain's support.

The British leader, whose premiership has been dominated by his unpopular decision to join the 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, arrived in Iraq via Kuwait, following talks in Washington with President Bush on Thursday.

Blair told a Rose Garden news conference that Britain's next leader, current Treasury chief Gordon Brown, would continue to back al-Maliki's government, saying Iraq was a critical battleground in the fight against global terrorism.

"The forces that we are fighting in Iraq - al-Qaida on the one hand, Iranian-backed elements on the other - are the same forces we're fighting everywhere," Blair told reporters.

Talks with al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani were to center on speeding up reconciliation between divided communities, British officials said.

Blair's official spokesman, who briefs reporters only on condition of anonymity, said tribal elders and community leaders who may be "connected with people who have committed violence" must be engaged with.

Coalition officials have been cautiously optimistic over evidence that some tribal leaders in Anbar province had ousted al-Qaida-linked insurgents hiding in their communities, Blair's spokesman said.

Britain did not believe in talks with foreign terrorists, he said, but would support moves to bring those whose violence was motivated by "concerns about whether their community will have a place in the new Iraq" into the political sphere.

Blair hopes provincial elections could take place in 2007 and that Sunni groups, who boycotted the last similar poll, would field candidates, his spokesman said.

Britain has almost completed the process of pulling about 1,600 troops out of Iraq, leaving a force of around 5,500 based mainly on the fringes of the southern city of Basra.

Troops levels are likely to fall below 5,000 in late summer, but Blair has said British soldiers will stay in the Basra region until at least 2008 to train local forces, patrol the Iran-Iraq border and secure supply routes.

Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, will not carry out a planned tour of duty in southern Iraq with his regiment after army chiefs ruled there were specific threats to the young royal's life.

In an emotional resignation speech to members of his Labour party last week, Blair acknowledged violence directed at civilians and coalition troops in Iraq has been "fierce and unrelenting and costly."

A mounting military death toll - 148 British troops have died in Iraq since the start of the 2003 invasion - has led some Britons to call for Brown to speed up the withdrawal of British soldiers and to cool relations with Bush.

Brown said last Sunday that Britain was "a divided country over Iraq," but claimed most citizens - even those opposed to the invasion - accepted that it is in their interests to support al-Maliki's administration.

Baku's secondary housing prices show monthly decline
Baku's secondary housing prices show monthly decline
Azerbaijani public legal entity opens tender to buy printing products
Azerbaijani public legal entity opens tender to buy printing products
Azerbaijani railway operator admitted to consortium of Trans-Caspian Transport Route
Azerbaijani railway operator admitted to consortium of Trans-Caspian Transport Route
Loading Bars
Latest
Germany reports 8,685 new COVID-19 cases
Footage from liberated from occupation Gubadli city (VIDEO)
Footage from liberated from occupation Khanligr village of Gubadli region (VIDEO)
Armenia does not want to take bodies of its deceased soldiers as it fears anger of people - Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan
Kazakh PM meets with Turkish Defense Minister
Footage from liberated from occupation Padar village of Gubadli region (VIDEO)
Azerbaijan neutralizes one of 3 missiles shot by Armenian troops at Azerbaijan's Tartar
Azerbaijan's Bank Association denies lies spread by Armenian side
Effective co-op in field of border security established between Azerbaijan, Iran
Armenian Armed Forces shell Azerbaijan’s Tartar by using 'Smerch' missiles
Armenia indiscriminately targets civilians - Assistant to Azerbaijani president
Azerbaijanis hold rally in California, condemning Armenian terror (PHOTO)
Azerbaijani compatriots living in Minnesota hold protest rally (PHOTO)
Armenian Armed Forces shelling Azerbaijan's Tartar city, villages
Armenian armed forces shelling Tartar city with artillery, missiles in gross breach of humanitarian ceasefire
Iran's powder detergent production grows
Azerbaijanis in Denmark hold protest rally against Armenian terror (PHOTO)
Turkish embassy in Georgia talks joint energy projects of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey
Protest rally against Armenian attack on Ganja held in Bielefeld, Germany (PHOTO)
Iranian Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale October 27
Armenian Armed Forces’ quadrocopter destroyed by Azerbaijani troops
Al Jazeera posts article covering aftermath of Armenian missile attack on Ganja
Baku's secondary housing prices show monthly decline
Investments in Iran's capital market increase
Uzbek Reconstruction and Development Fund to support creation of Export Support Fund
Turkey's export of defense products to Morocco plunges
Nagorno-Karabakh region to be liberated sooner or later: press secretary of Turkish president
USD falls against Uzbek soum for the first time in three months
Work connected with laying of gas pipelines on freed Azerbaijani territories kicked off (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Volume of maritime cargo shipment via Turkey from Spain disclosed
Turkmenistan significantly increases import of wheat flour from EAEU countries
Azerbaijani railway operator admitted to consortium of Trans-Caspian Transport Route
Georgia reveals results of 18 foreign exchange auctions conducted by National Bank
Iran Khodro reveals amount of funds saved thanks to domestic manufacturing
Export of Turkish-made defense products to China slumps
Armenian Armed Forces fire at school in Aghdam (PHOTO)
Assistant to Azerbaijani president comments on photo of Armenia's defense minister together with Armenian soldiers
Macron's anti-Islamic statements point to extreme misunderstanding of religion - Arab analyst
Uzbekistan’s Kashkadarya tops list of regions implementing foreign investments
Heritage Foundation's Foreign Policy Studies Center Director comments on photo showing Russian field camp set up near Armenian Tegh
Georgia sees increase in hazelnuts export
Georgia reveals volume of exported apples
U.S. regrets EU move on tariffs, seeks deal on Boeing-Airbus row
Russia seeking to be stabilizer in South Caucasus, says Russian expert
Uzbekistan discusses strengthening multilateral co-op with China and S. Korea
President Aliyev congratulates commanders of joint military corps who distinguished themselves in liberation of Gubadli city, villages of Gubadli district from occupiers
Review of statistics of people registered within state program 'Remotely from Georgia'
Volume of trade turnover between Turkmenistan, Russia’s Perm Krai revealed
Azerbaijani army does not fire at civilians - Defense Ministry
President Ilham Aliyev interviewed by Italian Rai 1 TV channel (PHOTO)
Iran launches new water treatment facility in Tehran
Iran studies Famotidine as Coronavirus treatment
Industrial production in Karabakh to increase in post-conflict period - CAERC head
Turkish president urges to boycott French goods
Work on power supply to strategic facilities in freed Azerbaijani territories underway (PHOTO)
Bank of Georgia suffers loss
S&P Global Ratings expects Azerbaijan's export to grow in next years
Iran’s Bahar Azadi gold coin price falling
Wildfire breaks out in Azerbaijan's Dashkasan district from Armenian attacks (VIDEO)
SOCAR considering new investments in Turkey
Romania's import of Azerbaijani products for 9M2020 revealed
Armenian Armed Forces fire at Azerbaijan’s Tartar district
Price of most Georgian companies’ shares up on London Stock Exchange
UK armed forces take control of ship in English Channel, seven people detained
Mobile phones and smartphones import down in Georgia
Azerbaijan confirms 131 more COVID-19 recoveries
Iran enlarges petrochemicals production
Azerbaijan hikes export to Belarus in 9M2020
S&P says Azerbaijani manat to maintain position against USD
German government raises 2020 GDP forecast to -5.5%
Turkmenistan ready to support contracts with companies of Russia’s Perm Krai
Recruiting children by Armenia against Azerbaijan is war crime, says Lebanese lawyer
President Ilham Aliyev: Azerbaijan restoring historical justice on battlefield
Azerbaijan's Aghjabadi district again under fire of Armenian Armed Forces
It is not worth using peacekeeping efforts of third states in settlement of Karabakh conflict - Georgian expert
Weekly digest of Azerbaijan’s energy sector
Uzbekneftegaz accelerates commissioning of technological devices due to autumn-winter period
EU's Barnier heads for London for Brexit deal talks
Corn oil produced by Georgian Plant Oil Company Qarva to enter supermarkets
President Ilham Aliyev talks proving to world that Karabakh is Azerbaijan's historical land
Turkey discloses 9M2020 data on cargo movement via its ports from UK
Armenia's leadership, criminal junta regime have no moral, ethical framework - Azerbaijani top official
Iran ready to fire at Armenian Armed Forces if they approach its border with Azerbaijan
Iran`s Quchan grapes exports revealed
Turkmen private sector provides half of industrial production in Balkan region
Amount of industrial enterprises launched in Iran's Hamadan soars
Iran reveals its COVID-19 data for October 26
Uzbekneftegaz eyes to increase natural gas production
Armenia never supports peace – Azerbaijani MP in interview to TRT World TV channel (VIDEO)
Karabakh conflict's settlement process is at hot point - Kremlin spokesman
Over 230 tankers with ACG oil shipped from Ceyhan terminal
Azerbaijani Prosecutor General's Office gives updates on civil casualties, damages
Iran's Shazand Oil Refining Company opens tender to buy equipment
Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council slams French president
Canada points out importance of creating mechanism for resolving Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
EBRD supports construction of 100 MW wind farm in south of Kazakhstan
Georgian Tegeta Motors Company makes another deals
All nations in Azerbaijan united and will achieve victory - head of Russian community
Iran boosts generation capacity of thermal power plants
Kazakhstan's fixed investments volume decreases over 9M2020
All news