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US allies must not quit Iraq now: Tony Blair

Written by: Staff
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Melbourne, Mar 27: British Prime Minister Tony Blair, speaking amid calls by many Australians for their troops to be withdrawn from Iraq, will tell Australia's parliament today now is not the time to quit the violence-torn country.

US allies Australia and Britain both have troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Australian opposition leader Kim Beazley has said a future Labor government would withdraw Australia's troops from Iraq as soon as possible, and a recent poll by a left-leaning political firm found 65 percent of Australians wanted the country's troops to leave Iraq no later than May.

''If the going is tough, we tough it out. This is not a time to walk away. This is a time for the courage to see it through,'' Blair will say in a speech to the Australian parliament in Canberra today, referring to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

He will tell Australian legislators that, as well as winning the security battle, the West must build a global alliance to promote its values.

''This is the age of the inter-connected. We all recognise this when it comes to economics, communications and culture but the same applies to politics. The struggle in our world today therefore is not just about security, it is a struggle about values and about modernity,'' Blair will say, in a reference to Islamist militants.

BATTLE OF IDEAS

''To win, we have to win the battle of ideas as much as (that of) arms. We have to show these are not Western, still less American or Anglo-Saxon values, but values in the common ownership of humanity, universal values that should be the right of the global citizen,'' he will say, according to excerpts made available to reporters.

''Ranged against us are the people who hate us, but beyond them are many more who don't hate us, but question our motives, our good faith, our even-handedness, who could support our values but believe we support them selectively.'' ''These are the people we have to persuade. They have to know this is about justice and fairness as well as security and prosperity,'' he will say.

Blair said all these values were connected. ''We cannot say we are an open society and close our markets to the justice (that) the poorest of the world demand,'' he will say.

''If we want to secure our way of life, there is no alternative but to fight for it. That means standing up for our values, not just in our own country but the world over.

We need to construct a global alliance for these global values and act through it,'' he will add.

Blair's speech is the second of three major speeches he is giving on foreign policy. In the first talk in London last week he defended his interventionist approach to confronting terrorism.

In the third speech, to be given during a visit to the United States, Blair will talk about reform in the Middle East and the reform of international institutions.

Anti-Iraq war protesters and anti-war politicians plan a rally outside Australia's parliament during Blair's visit.

Blair will hope he doesn't face the vocal hostility that U.S. President George W. Bush encountered when he spoke to the Canberra parliament in October 2003. Bush was heckled inside the chamber and jeered by protesters outside when he defended the invasion of Iraq and the war on terrorism.

REUTERS

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