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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Tony Blair Speaks to British Troops

Aired May 29, 2003 - 05:36   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you live to southern Iraq right now. In Basra, the British prime minister Tony Blair is now speaking to British troops.
Let's listen.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: ... respect to them for everything they did and the sacrifice that they made. And I just wanted to tell you very quickly the two things that I think have come out of this that are going to be important not just for this country, but for the whole of the world.

The first is in Iraq itself. I mean you will know, having talked to local people and having been on the streets in Basra, you will know the Shia misery of the tyranny they lived under. And there are people here who in years to come will look back and will remember what you did and recognize that as the start of their future and a life of hope and the possibility of prosperity.

You probably know this country, Iraq, is one of the wealthiest countries, potentially, in the world. And yet its people live in appalling poverty.

Now, in the years to come, as a result of what we've done, they can rebuild their country. And we've got to help them do that. And the liberation from Saddam is one huge thing, a momentous and a mighty act for the people of Iraq which you did and of which you can be proud.

But something else is happening right throughout the whole of this region. You know, I think, that this area of the world has been the source of probably more instability, more terrorism, more difficulty in managing world affairs than any other region in the world. And it's interesting to me to talk, for example, to the leaders of the Gulf countries, most recently last night in Kuwait, and see the changes that they can see happening in their countries as a result of the removal of Saddam's dictatorship from Iraq.

You can see in relation to countries like Syria and Iran, where we've still got big issues we need to discuss with them and we need to resolve with them, and yet we can do that now in a completely different atmosphere than was possible a few months ago. And you can see it, too, in the Middle East peace process and what's happening in Israel and Palestine, where, for the first chance now in several years, there's just the beginnings of the hope of a different way forward for the future. And all of that has arisen out of this action and what you did. And I would like to think that maybe a year or two year's time, it's going to be possible for some of you to come back here and see the changes in this country that have arisen from what you've done today. Because in a way what you did, I think, serves as a model of how armed forces anywhere in the world should conduct themselves. You know, you fought the battle and you won the battle and you fought it with great courage and valor.

But it didn't stop there. You then went on to try and make something of the country that you had liberated. And I think that's a lesson for armed forces everywhere the world over.

And the other thing I think will be very clear is that when people look back on this time and look back on this conflict, I honestly believe they will see this as one of the defining moments of our century. And you did it. It was your courage and your professionalism that did it. And I just wanted to say to you -- because I know people back home, you know, you'll read lots in the media and the newspapers. I just want to say this to you, people back home are incredibly proud of what you've done. You know, you've made this whole country, our country, hold its head up high and I think that's a wonderful, wonderful achievement. It's your achievement and thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prime minister, thank you very much for those words.

BLAIR: OK, thank you.

COSTELLO: All right, we're going to jump away from this. You were just hearing British Prime Minister Tony Blair thanking British troops in Basra, which is located in the south part of Iraq. He also met with the civilian administrator, the American Paul Bremer, to talk about the situation inside Iraq. Tony Blair will eventually make his way to Russia, where he'll meet up with President Bush for the G8 summit.

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