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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 March 2006, 08:49 GMT
Blair begins visit to Australia
Tony  Blair at an EU summit in Brussels
Blair is going straight from an EU summit in Brussels
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has arrived in Melbourne, Australia, at the start of a three-nation tour.

Mr Blair will attend the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games before addressing parliament in the capital, Canberra.

He is expected to hold talks with Australian Prime Minister John Howard and his Cabinet about security and the war on terror.

Mr Blair will travel on to New Zealand and Indonesia.

His non-stop flight from an EU summit in Brussels to Australia took an epic 18 hours and 55 minutes to cover 9,200 nautical miles.

Protests planned

Only three world leaders have addressed the Australian federal parliament in the past decade - US presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush, and the President of China, Hu Jintao.

Reports say that in his speech, Mr Blair will portray the Iraq war as part of a global struggle between democracy and violence which warrants continued intervention.

The opposition Labor party in Australia is arguing for a clear timetable for troop withdrawal.

In Canberra, Mr and Mrs Blair will visit the Australian War Memorial, which commemorates the country's involvement in conflicts including British empire wars, the two world wars and Vietnam, and lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier.

Anti-war protesters have promised demonstrations during Mr Blair's visit.

Industry meetings

Liberal Prime Minister Mr Howard has described the trip as a "valuable opportunity to discuss the expansion of the Australia-UK relationship, our shared commitment to stabilisation and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and our common interest in fighting global terrorism".

Both prime ministers will also take part in the second Australia-UK Leadership Forum in Canberra.

The meeting, to be attended by business leaders and academics, will discuss globalisation, energy security, climate change and skilled migration.

This is the second time Tony Blair has visited Australia as prime minister.

He will travel on to New Zealand, for the first visit by a UK Government head since the 1950s, and then to Indonesia - the world's most populous Muslim country - later in the week.


SEE ALSO:
Old friends host Blair down under
25 Mar 06 |  UK Politics
The big debate Down Under
28 Nov 05 |  Magazine


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