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British Prime Minister Blair (left) and Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki emerge from their meeting in Baghdad (epa)
May 22, 2006 -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair, on a surprise visit to Baghdad, has hailed the formation of a government of national unity as "a new beginning."
Blair, speaking at a joint news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamil al-Maliki, admitted that Iraq's reconstruction since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, had been "longer and harder" than anticipated, but said there is now no excuse for anyone in Iraq to continue with acts of terror.
Blair is the first world leader to visit Iraq since its new government was inaugurated on May 20, and the trip is being seen as a expression of support for the new government.
Blair's spokesman had earlier said Blair wants to help Iraq's democratically elected government "take charge of its own destiny."
Blair is the first world leader to visit Iraq since its new government was inaugurated on May 20. He has said that coalition soldiers hope to transfer their duties to Iraqis as soon as possible, but that British troops will remain for as long as they are needed.
Britain has some 8,000 soldiers in Iraq.
(Reuters, AP, AFP)