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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 June 2006, 12:22 GMT 13:22 UK
Key points: PM's news briefing
Here are the key points from UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's monthly Downing Street news conference.

Iraq and Zarqawi's death

  • Mr Blair opened by talking about the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, saying his death "is a strike against al-Qaeda" in that country.

  • He said whatever the debate over the removal of Saddam Hussein, if democracy took root in Iraq and Afghanistan, and al-Qaeda was defeated in those countries, it would be defeated everywhere.

  • Mr Blair said, however, that the death of Zarqawi would not end terrorism in Iraq. He added he was not minimising the huge challenges that were ahead.

  • The prime minister said despite the killing, there had been progress. He said Iraqi people wanted a democracy and the US-led coalition's task was to "stick with them".

  • Mr Blair said he was unable to comment at this stage on the intelligence side of killing Zarqawi.

  • His elimination was important because he was the "hands-on leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq" but there were others who would take his place.

  • Mr Blair said the measure of progress in the troubled country would be tied to the success of the fledgling democracy.

    UN secretary general

  • In response to a question from a reporter, Mr Blair said he was not going to go for the job of United Nations secretary general. Mr Blair did not comment on the current spat between the UN and the US.

    Lib Dem green taxes

  • The prime minister said he could not see how the Liberal Democrats would pay for a 2p income tax cut by using green taxes.

  • He said it was reasonable to try to encourage environmentally-friendly behaviour but said the amounts the Lib Dems hoped to raise from higher fuel and aviation taxes appeared "completely unrealistic".

  • He said he believed flights would just be re-routed, adding that there was no easy "cuddly tax" answer.

    Cleared soldiers

  • Mr Blair was asked about the prosecution of British soldiers for the killing of a 17-year-old boy. He said he was delighted they were acquitted, adding prosecutions were not the decision of politicians.

    NHS reforms

  • During his opening remarks the prime minister said reform of the NHS was necessary to avoid the sort of financial difficulties the health service is facing at the moment.

    Home Office crisis

  • Mr Blair said globalisation and social pressures had all contributed to the difficulty of the Home Office's remit, which includes immigration and crime.

  • The prime minister said the job of home secretary presented challenges unlike any other job in government. He insisted there had been improvements despite all the pressures.

    Negotiating over Iran

  • Mr Blair said it was very sensible of the United States to consider direct talks with Iran on the issue of nuclear proliferation. The prime minister said President Bush believed a diplomatic solution was possible.

  • The prime minister said the US involvement in a diplomatic approach did not represent a change of direction in Washington.

    UK nuclear power plans

  • Mr Blair said it was very important to emphasise that he was talking about replacing the UK's existing nuclear energy capacity, rather than expanding it. The replacement was needed because the current generation of nuclear power stations would have to close in the years to come.

  • The prime minister said when the energy review was published it would also include proposals for the use of "renewables" as part of a wider solution to securing power for the future.

  • Mr Blair said much of British industry would be affected by rising energy costs and that was an important part of looking at nuclear options again.

  • Energy costs were in danger of making Britain uncompetitive, he added.

    John Prescott's future

  • In response to a question about Mr Prescott, Mr Blair said the deputy prime minister's role had already been explained as one of supporting the prime minister in running the government. On his own future Mr Blair said he had commented all he wanted to on the subject. People expected them to get on with governing.

    World Cup... bank holiday?

  • Tony Blair said "let's wait and see" when asked if there would be a public holiday should England win the football World Cup, which starts on Friday.

  • The prime minister was asked if his red tie and white shirt were carefully co-ordinated to represent the St George Cross. Mr Blair said that point had not occurred to him. He wished the team all the best, especially in the forthcoming match against Paraguay.

    Banning rap and hip-hop lyrics

  • Mr Blair was asked a question about whether some rap and hip-hop songs glamorise the knife and gun "cultures". The prime minister said it was important to be responsible. It was also important to target organised and drug crime but he did not want to get involved in a debate about banning songs.

    China

  • The prime minister said the UK was right to engage with China despite the undemocratic regime there. He said the most secure way of protecting Britain's way of life was through spreading democracy.

    Israel

  • Mr Blair said he was holding talks with the Israeli prime minister on Monday and said the view of everyone he talked to in the Middle East was that they wanted a solution which guaranteed Israeli security and allowed a Palestinian state. Hamas must ask themselves whether they want to be part of that or not.

    The news conference, which began at 1200 BST, ended at 1301.


  • SEE ALSO:
    Zarqawi death 'good news' - Blair
    08 Jun 06 |  UK Politics
    In pictures: Life of Zarqawi
    08 Jun 06 |  In Pictures
    In quotes: Reaction to Zarqawi death
    08 Jun 06 |  Middle East
    Lib Dems pledge to cut income tax
    08 Jun 06 |  UK Politics
    Blair to quit 'well before' poll
    07 Jun 06 |  UK Politics


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