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Troops decision 'in weeks'.

The Government will make a decision within weeks on sending more British troops to Iraq, Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday.Blair praises Brown but refuses to back off:Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday refused to publicly endorse Gordon Brown as his successor but praised the Chancellor as 'a tremendous asset'.

Mr Blair said he was still 'absolutely up for' his job as Premier and decisions on his successor would have to wait.

Asked to endorse Mr Brown he said, 'These are decisions for the future. But I have always made it clear the high regard I have for him. It has been a great partnership, he has been a brilliant Chancellor. He is a tremendous asset to the party and to the country.'

Mr Blair said he had been coy over his own plans because he wanted to avoid headlines saying he wanted to 'go on and on and on' or on the other hand that he was about to quit. He said the job of being Prime Minister got more difficult further into his tenure.

But he added, 'I am absolutely up for it. In the end it is the British people who are the boss, they are the people who make the decision.

The reason I am up for it is there is a lot more still to do.'

Mr Blair said he believed he had the crucial support of his party to continue as Premier.

He conceded the war in Iraq had lost Labour votes saying it 'is the shadow over our support.'

But, he said, beneath that, people were now beginning to see real improvement to public services.

On Saturday, Mr Blair tried to end speculation over his future by vowing to lead Labour into the next General Election.

And Mr Brown played down his ambitions to become Prime Minister saying it was 'what you do' and not 'the office you hold' that mattered.

He said he was 'very happy' serving under Mr Blair and was focused on his job as Chancellor.

Ten years on - Page 10
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 31, 2004
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