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Brown becomes new British prime minister

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070627/ap_on_re_eu/britain_brown Brown becomes new British prime minister By DAVID STRINGER, Associated Press Writer 30 minutes
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 27, 2007
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070627/ap_on_re_eu/britain_brown

      Brown becomes new British prime minister

      By DAVID STRINGER, Associated Press Writer 30 minutes
      ago

      LONDON - Former Treasury chief Gordon Brown became
      British prime minister Wednesday, promising "a new
      government with new priorities," after Tony Blair
      resigned to end a decade in power.

      Power changed hands traditionally and quietly behind
      closed doors in Buckingham Palace as Blair first
      called on Queen Elizabeth II to submit his
      resignation, and Brown arrived soon after to be
      confirmed as the new prime minister.

      "This will be a new government with new priorities,"
      Brown told reporters outside his Downing Street office
      minutes later. "I've been privileged with the great
      opportunity to serve my country."

      Brown, a 56-year-old Scot known for his often stern
      demeanor, beamed as he was applauded by Treasury staff
      before heading with his wife, Sarah, to the palace,
      and he smiled broadly when he emerged.

      The incoming leader, who for many lacks Blair's
      charisma, must woo Britons by shaking off the taint of
      backing the hugely unpopular Iraq war. With promises
      of restoring trust in government, he is planning to
      sweep aside the Blair era after a decade waiting for
      the country's top job.

      Earlier, an emotional Blair received a warm send-off
      in the House of Commons — from his opponents as well
      as members of his own Labour party — after one final
      appearance at the weekly question time session.

      "I wish everyone — friend or foe — well. And that is
      that. The end," he said.

      Legislators rose to their feet and applauded as he
      left for his meeting with the queen. Some, including
      Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, wiped away tears.

      Blair also used the session to say he was sorry for
      the perils faced by British troops in Iraq and
      Afghanistan, but he gave no apology for his decisions
      to back the United States in taking military action.

      Blair expressed condolences to the families of the
      fallen, this week including two in Iraq and one in
      Afghanistan.

      "I am truly sorry about the dangers that they face
      today in Iraq and Afghanistan," Blair said.

      "I know some may think that they face these dangers in
      vain; I don't and I never will. I believe they are
      fighting for the security of this country and the
      wider world against people who would destroy our way
      of life," he said.

      "Whatever view people take of my decisions, I think
      there is only way view to take of them: they are the
      bravest and the best," Blair added.

      David Cameron, leader of the opposition Conservative
      Party, saluted Blair's achievements and wished him
      well.

      "He has considerable achievements to his credit,
      whether it is peace in Northern Ireland, whether it is
      work in the developing world, which I know will
      endure," Cameron said.

      "I'm sure that life in the public eye has sometimes
      been tough on this family. So can I say on behalf of
      my party that we wish him and his family well, and we
      wish him every success in whatever he does in the
      future."

      Workers packed furniture and boxes into a van outside
      Blair's Downing Street home before he handed over
      power to Brown.

      Brown will seek to head off a challenge from a revived
      opposition Conservative party. Polls already point to
      a "Brown bounce," with one survey putting his Labour
      party ahead of its rivals for the first time since
      October.

      Few expected the dour former finance chief to be
      greeted with public enthusiasm. In fact, Brown's
      ascension was widely seen as a political gift for the
      more youthful Cameron.

      But Blair's last full day in office brought an
      unexpected present — the defection of a Conservative
      legislator to his Labour party. The move put Brown in
      bullish mood and he will now weigh calling a national
      election as early as next summer.

      President Bush paid a final tribute to his ally and
      will later call Blair's successor with
      congratulations.

      "Tony's had a great run and history will judge him
      kindly," Bush told Britain's The Sun tabloid in
      remarks published Wednesday. "I've heard he's been
      called Bush's poodle. He's bigger than that."

      Bush is thought to have been instrumental in winning
      Blair his new role as envoy to the Quartet of Mideast
      peace mediators.

      Irish leader Bertie Ahern said Blair he told him his
      new role would be "tricky," but said he wanted to
      focus on peacemaking.

      "He believes if you have hands-on, persistent
      engagement then you can have real progress," Ahern
      told Ireland's state broadcaster RTE.

      Brown has waited 13 years for this moment. Most keenly
      watched will be his policy toward Iraq. British troop
      numbers there have rapidly fallen during 2007.

      Blair has left his successor an option to call back
      more of the remaining 5,500 personnel by 2008 — an
      opportunity likely to be grasped by a leader with a
      national election to call before June 2010.

      "His hands, whilst not quite clean, are certainly not
      sullied," said Alasdair Murray the director of
      CentreForum, a liberal think-tank. Brown can "portray
      it as Blair's war and differentiate himself."

      Brown may sanction a future inquiry on Iraq, similar
      to the U.S. Study Group, telling a recent rally that
      Britain needs to acknowledge mistakes made over the
      conflict.

      In Europe, bridges have been built with German
      chancellor Angela Merkel and new French president
      Nicholas Sarkozy, but tensions are likely to emerge.

      The succession ends a partnership at the pinnacle of
      British politics that began when Brown and Blair were
      elected to Parliament in 1983 — sharing an office and
      a vision to transform their party's fortunes.

      It has been widely reported — but never confirmed —
      that the two agreed to a pact over dinner in 1994 —
      with Brown agreeing not to run against Blair for the
      Labour leadership following the death of then party
      chief John Smith.

      In return, Blair reportedly vowed to give Brown broad
      powers as Treasury chief and to step down after a
      reasonable time to give Brown a shot at the senior
      post.

      Though Brown, who was unopposed in a contest to select
      Blair's successor, is moving jobs — he won't be moving
      house.

      He, his wife and two young sons already live in the
      private quarters at No. 10 Downing Street — the prime
      minister's official residence — having switched homes
      with Blair's larger family, who needed the roomier
      apartment next door in No. 11, Brown's official residence.
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