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Last Updated: Monday, 29 September, 2003, 07:17 GMT 08:17 UK
Blair defiant over Iraq
Some party members say they have been misled over Iraq
Tony Blair has passionately defended the war on Iraq - saying it was right to invade and he has nothing to apologise for.

The prime minister was also defiant over his domestic policies, prompting criticism from unions over his failure to protect the rights of public sector workers.

He faces a difficult time at the Labour party's annual conference in Bournemouth over foundation hospitals, top-up fees and particularly Iraq.

But Mr Blair has already received a boost with the news delegates at the conference will not vote on the UK's involvement in Iraq.

Instead, votes will be held on manufacturing, pensions, employment rights and health.

I think we did the right thing in removing Saddam Hussein... and I don't think we have anything to apologise for as a country
Tony Blair

Mr Blair told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme that, despite the failure so far to find any evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the current instability and violence, he had been right to join the invasion.

Foundation hospitals

Asked if there was anything he would have done differently in relation to Iraq, Mr Blair replied: "Nothing. I would have done exactly the same.

"We did the right thing in removing Saddam Hussein. The world is a safer place without him.

"And I don't think we have anything to apologise for as a country. Our soldiers did a magnificent job."

Mr Blair said the world knew "perfectly well" Saddam had had weapons and programmes.

He said British troops would stay in Iraq "until we get the job done", although he did not think it would be as long as five years.

And Mr Blair ran into fresh criticism over his plans for foundation hospitals as unions condemned a U-turn on protecting the rights of public sector workers transferred to private sector bosses.

Unison said Mr Blair had been planning to announce that the pay and conditions for those in the health service, Ministry of Defence and education system would be protected.

Whatever the battering you get, I actually feel more confident of our forward agenda
Tony Blair

But that plan was abandoned after a warning by one of Health Secretary John Reid's special advisers, who felt it could damage the drive towards foundation hospitals.

Unison boss Dave Prentis said: "The issue is about fairness and trust and about the Government keeping its word.

"To now hear that that commitment will be dishonoured on the advice of an unelected adviser is shameful."

The BBC's Mark Mardell
"He said there would be no backing down on controversial policies"


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