Tony Blair on a tour of the Middle East has made a surprise visit to Baghdad where he pledged full support to the Iraqi government. The British prime minister held talks with his Iraqi counterpart Nuri al-Maliki who is facing growing pressure to stem sectarian violence in his country. The bloodshed is claiming more than 100 lives a day according to the UN.
“I’ve reiterated our determination to stand full square behind you and the Iraqi people in ensuring that your democracy is not destroyed by terrorism, by sectarianism, by those who wish to live in hatred rather than peace,” said Blair. His visit comes a day after prime minister al-Maliki called for the return of all former Sunni Arab officers under Saddam Hussein’s disbanded army in an effort to reduce sectarian strife.
The British leader’s tour is aimed at resuscitating peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East. Blair sees progress there as key to defusing regional tensions and helping stem the Iraqi insurgency, which is threatening to overshadow his legacy after a decade in power.