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Allawi: No change in Iraq vote


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Blair and Allawi speak to reporters in London. Both say Iraq elections will go ahead as planned.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi says national elections in Iraq will go ahead in January as planned despite ongoing violence in the country.

"We definitely are going to stick to the timetable of elections in January next year," Allawi told a news conference Sunday after talks in London with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"We are adamant that democracy is going to prevail, it's going to win in iraq and this is where terrorists are trying to hurt us and trying to undermine us."

Allawi and Blair have both previously expressed support for keeping the election date of January 31.

Blair told reporters the international community should put aside its differences about the initial reason for going to war in Iraq and unite in support of Allawi's government and the fight against the terrorist insurgency in Iraq.

"In this conflict now taking place in Iraq, this is the crucible in which the future of this global terrorism will be determined," Blair said.

"Either it will succeed and this terrorism will grow, or we will succeed, the Iraqi people will succeed, and this global terrorism will be delivered a huge defeat."

The talks at 10 Downing Street, which lasted almost two hours, marked the first face-to-face meeting between Blair and Allawi.

Allawi was expected to stay on for a meeting with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on Monday, before flying to New York to attend U.S. President George W. Bush's address to the United Nations on Tuesday.

Last week, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned that there could not be "credible elections if the security conditions continue as they are now."

Allawi is also scheduled to go to Washington to address a joint session of Congress on Thursday.

He plans to return to London for a meeting with Iraqi expatriates on his way back to Iraq.

Meanwhile, Sunday's meeting with Allawi came as Blair faced renewed criticism over his decision to send British troops to Iraq, and just days after a Briton was taken hostage along with two Americans. (Full story)

Over the weekend, Blair attempted play down claims that he had been warned a year before the war to oust Saddam Hussein of the chaos that might follow.

He was reacting to leaked memos from Foreign secretary Jack Straw and senior government officials published in London's Daily Telegraph.

"Having read in the papers that apparently I was warned of the chaos that was going to ensue in Iraq, I actually got the minute Jack sent me. It didn't do anything of the sort," Blair told reporters on Saturday.

"What it warned of was this: it's very important that we don't replace one dictator, Saddam Hussein, with another. I totally agree with that."

Blair added: "The idea that we did not have a plan for afterwards is simply not correct. We did, and we have unfolded that plan, but there are people in Iraq who are determined to stop us."

He said Iraq was "the very crucible of the fight against terrorism, against groups that are prepared to kill, or take hostages, or do whatever they can in order to prevent Iraq becoming a stable, democratic country."

On the hostage situation, Blair told reporters Sunday that he and Allawi had discussed the fate of the Briton being held in Iraq.

"Our governments are working closely on this," he said, adding that he did not want to comment further on the matter at this time.

-- CNN's Paula Hancocks contributed to this report


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