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Brown admits "ups and downs" in Blair friendship

Written by: Staff
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LONDON, Sep 14 (Reuters) Chancellor Gordon Brown has acknowledged ''ups and downs'' in his relationship with Prime Minister Tony Blair but says their friendship is strong and always will be.

In an interview with Sky television broadcast today, Brown said Blair had led the country with ''a tremendous amount of ability, skill, acumen and sensitivity''.

''Tony Blair has been a wonderful leader for the Labour Party and I think over the 23 years I have known Tony, this has been one of the strongest political relationships in history,'' said Brown, tipped to succeed Blair as premier.

''The only difference between myself and Tony Blair ... is maybe this one thing: Tony has said he wants not to stand at the next election. I have decided that I want to stand.'' Blair and Brown, who have had a tense relationship for years, have appeared more divided than ever this month over the timetable for Blair's departure.

Blair has said he will step down within a year, and is widely expected to resign next May. His supporters have accused Brown of a covert campaign to oust the premier before then.

Asked if Blair was his friend, Brown told Sky: ''Yes, and he will always be my friend. And you build friendships, but friendships have ups and downs as well.'' ''No chancellor has served nine years and no prime minister has had the same chancellor for nine years. You are bound to go through ups and downs.

''You've got to take ups and downs into account but look at a relationship not just over two minutes or 10 days. You look at it over 23 years.'' Brown hailed the government's achievements on Northern Ireland, the heath service, schools, employment and the economy.

''I don't think deals are anything that matter in politics,'' he said in reference to reports he and Blair have now hatched a deal on the date for a handover of power.

''It's what actually happens on the ground and what his (Blair's) achievements were.'' REUTERS DKA KP1304

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