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Blair visits Iraq, praises troops

Blair traveled to Iraq by military aircraft from Egypt, where he and his family were on vacation.
Blair traveled to Iraq by military aircraft from Egypt, where he and his family were on vacation.

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British Prime Minister Tony Blair visits UK troops in Basra, Iraq. CNN's Karl Penhaul reports. (January 4)
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(CNN) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair has made an unannounced visit to British troops in Basra, Iraq.

He landed in the southern Iraqi city around 11 a.m. (3 a.m. ET) Sunday after traveling by military aircraft from Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where he and his family were on vacation, according to a Downing Street spokesman.

During the day-long visit, he praised British soldiers in a speech delivered to some of the 10,000 British troops stationed in and around Basra, Iraq's second-largest city.

"Iraq today has taken shape under your help and with your guidance in a way that would have been unthinkable a year ago," he said. "[Iraqis] today have some hope and some prospect of a future thanks to you."

Blair also visited an Iraqi police training camp, and observed British soldiers teaching self-defense techniques to trainees.

He is also scheduled to meet military commanders before returning to London Sunday night.

Blair last visited British troops in Basra in May. His latest trip follows President Bush's surprise Thanksgiving Day visit to Baghdad and a visit by Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar on December 20.

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