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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July, 2003, 10:10 GMT 11:10 UK
Cherie serenades diplomatic mission
Tony Blair and wife Cherie
Mr Blair had been grilled by students before the sing-along
Prime Minister Tony Blair can always rely on his wife Cherie to lighten the mood at a time of crisis - this time by breaking into song.

The high-flying lawyer needed little prompting before she serenaded a group of students in the Chinese capital Beijing with the first verse of the Beatles hit "When I'm 64".

The impromptu singing session came during the latest leg of Mr Blair's Far East diplomatic mission.

Can you tell me honestly, like you were talking to your own child, that you never lied about the Iraq war?
Chinese student

Moments earlier the prime minister had faced a hostile grilling from students at Tsinghua University over the death of weapons expert Dr David Kelly and the war in Iraq.

One student asked: "Can you tell us frankly what was your feeling when you heard the news of the death on the way to Japan? How do you get through this and regain people's trust?"

Mr Blair replied: "This is a desperately sad time for the family of Dr Kelly and his funeral's not been held yet and I don't want to say more about that situation except to say there will be a proper independent inquiry into what happened."

Regrets?

Another student asked whether this was the toughest time of the prime minister's political career since Dr Kelly's death and given the lack of "hard evidence" on weapons of mass destruction.

Cherie Blair sings the Beatles
When I get older losing my hair, many years from now. Will you still be sending me a valentine? Birthday greetings bottle of wine? If I'd been out till quarter to three, would you lock the door? Will you still need me, will you still feed me? When I'm sixty-four.
Cherie Blair sings a Beatles song

Mr Blair retorted: "I have no doubt at all that Iraq was trying to develop these weapons.

"There's a group of people in Iraq now who are looking both at the programmes and the weapons themselves and the evidence of the weapons and the evidence of the programmes."

The prime minister was also asked whether he regretted the war on Iraq and replied: "I have to say no, I don't regret it. I believe no matter how difficult it was, that it was that right thing to do and I say that not simply in terms of the security of the world but in terms of the suffering of the Iraqi people."

Another student challenged Mr Blair: "You are the same age as my father, can you tell me honestly, like you were talking to your own child, that you never lied about the Iraq war?"

But as the question and answer session came to an end and the Blairs prepared to fly on to Shanghai, a "sister city" of Liverpool - Mrs Blair's home town - a student called out: "Sing us a song."

Mr Blair seemed puzzled, and asked where his wife was.

Clapping

She joined him and said: "They want a Beatles song. People want us to sing - they want me to sing."

Mr Blair told his wife: "You can sing anything you like - When I'm 64."

As the prime minister grinned and clapped along in time with the students, Mrs Blair sang the first verse of the Beatles favourite.

Mr Blair finally joined in her rendition of the song, which was originally sung by her fellow Liverpudlians and was greeted with warm applause.




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