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British PM Tony Blair to resign in 7 weeks

Last updated on: May 10, 2007 21:00 IST

British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced on Thursday that he will step down on June 27 after being at the helm of affairs for a decade, leading his country's economic boom but drawing flak for his foreign policy, especially the Iraq war.

Announcing his decision to quit as Labour leader in his constituency Sedgefield, where he first became an MP in 1983, Blair, whose departure is shrouded in the growing criticism over Britain's involvement in the Iraq war and the fight against terrorism, defended his decade in power saying, "I ask you to remember one thing. Hand on heart I did what I thought was right.

"I may have been wrong, that's your call. But I did what I thought was right for the country. There are obviously judgments to be made on my premiership and in the end that's for the people to make," he said at Trimdon Labour Club.

At the outset, Blair said, "I have come back here to Sedgefield where my political journey began and it's fitting that it should end here.

"Today I announce my decision to stand down from the leadership of the Labour Party. On the 27th of June I will tender my resignation as prime minister to the Queen," he said.

For India-UK ties, the high point was the inking of the 2002 New Delhi Declaration providing a new roadmap for bilateral activity in areas such as peace and security, development, education and science and trade and investment.

Blair also made another successful visit to India in September 2005.

The UK-India round table has met eight times since its inception in 2000 for enhancing bilateral activity and cooperation on global issues.

Blair was keen on building on the the historically close ties between the two countries.

Bilateral trade in goods and services had reached 6.3 billion pounds in 2004.

During his speech Blair, who won three consecutive election victories -- a record for the Labour Party -- admitted there had been times 'when I may have been wrong" and gave 'my apologies for the times I've fallen short'.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has also announced he is stepping down.

Labour's ruling National Executive Committee will meet on Sunday to decide the timetable for the election of a new leader and deputy.

Blair seemed overwhelmed by the enthusiastic response from the crowd as he entered and spoke in a faltering breathless voice at first.

But Blair was bullish about his support for the war against terror saying, "I decided we should stand shoulder to shoulder with our old allies, first in Afghanistan then in Iraq."

Blair did admit the 'blowback' from international terrorism had been 'fierce, unrelenting and costly'.

He asked his audience to think back over the last decade and appreciate how much the UK had changed in that time.

"Britain is not a follower today, Britain is a leader," he said.

"I've been very lucky and very blessed and this country is a blessed nation. The British are special. The world knows it. In our inner-most thoughts, we know it. This is the greatest nation on earth. It has been an honour to serve it," he said.

H S Rao in London
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