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Tuesday, 2 July, 2002, 20:46 GMT 21:46 UK
Blair: We stand firm with US
Tony Blair
Mr Blair said Anglo-US relations were solid
Tony Blair has played down reports of differences between the UK and US in relation to issues like Middle East peace.

The prime minister said the bulk of what US President George W Bush had said on the Middle East would be supported not just by the UK but by other European countries as well.


The US are working alongside the Afghans very closely indeed

Tony Blair
In an extended interview with Channel 4 News, Mr Blair admitted there were issues such as the US steel tariff in which different countries would strike different positions.

But on the big issues and on the details of those issues the UK and the US stood together.

Anti-American?

"There's a group of people on the right-wing of politics that want to say a Labour prime minister cannot work with a Republican president and want to use any potential differences to undermine that relationship and there are some people on the left who are, quite frankly, anti-American."

Quizzed about the tragedy in Afghanistan where the US attacked what appears to have been a wedding party, Mr Blair refused to be drawn.

It was too early to make a judgement about the incident in which left at least 30 villagers dead, he said.

"The US are working alongside the Afghans very closely indeed and were it not for the Americans in Afghanistan we wouldn't have the ability of the interim government to function properly."

Yasser Arafat
Yasser Arafat faces elections
Mr Blair went on to insist that claims in recent days over a differences between the UK and US over the Middle East was ill-founded.

The US has indicated that they are unwilling to deal with Yasser Arafat while this week UK Foreign Office Minister Mike O'Brien is to meet the Palestinian leader.

Mr Blair said: "What the Americans actually said is that the Palestinians can of course choose who they want but if the Americans are to take this process forwards and find the way to a secure Israeli state and a viable Palestinian state then they need serious people they can negotiate with that aren't tainted by terror."

Earlier in the programme Mr Blair came under fire from a panel of teachers, pupils and parents over Labour's record on education.

The prime minister said that teaching in some inner city schools was "an act of heroism".

Some comprehensives were failing but Mr Blair insisted that the government was trying to "put it right".

"In the inner cities, in particular, there aren't enough good quality schools.

"In some of the inner city areas when you are getting really difficult situations, teaching in one of those schools is an act of heroism.

"But we are putting it right."

'Bargepole'

Some members of the panel said they objected to some of the terminology used by Labour education ministers.

In particular they objected to Education Secretary Estelle Morris' comment that she some comprehensive should not be touched with a "bargepole".

Mr Blair said: "I accept there are some that are failing.

"That's absolutely clear, that's statistically obvious.

"But let's not completely demoralise ourselves - there are also some good things happening in the school system."

See also:

02 Jul 02 | South Asia
02 Jul 02 | UK Politics
01 Jul 02 | Middle East
11 Apr 01 | Business
20 Apr 02 | Business
24 Jun 02 | UK Education
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