Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Deaths Will Not Deter Us Says Defiant Blair; 'Heroic Mission Will Be Finished'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Deaths Will Not Deter Us Says Defiant Blair; 'Heroic Mission Will Be Finished'

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL WAUGH;JASON BEATTIE

TONY BLAIR and military chiefs today joined forces to vow that the tragedy would not deter British troops from completing their "heroic" mission in Iraq.

The Prime Minister expressed his condolences to the families of those who died but insisted that their work had been of vital importance in bringing stability to the country.

His remarks were echoed by Black Watch commander Lt-Col James Cowan, who said the regiment would not be deflected from carrying out its duty.

Speaking in Brussels alongside Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi, Mr Blair said that the operation by the British armed forces was "of crucial importance" to making sure elections were held in January.

"[The election] is the single most important element of bringing stability to Iraq and therefore stability to the wider Middle East," he said. A drawn-looking Mr Blair said the terrorists wanted to disrupt the democratic process in Iraq. He said: "Our purpose and resolve has to be equally firm to make sure those elections go ahead."

Lt-Col Cowan, speaking at Camp Dogwood, said of the deaths: "For a close-knit family such as the Black Watch, this is indeed a painful blow.

These soldiers were our friends but as we mourn their deaths, we remember their lives and give thanks for their contribution to the life of our regiment.

"We will miss them all as brothers in arms and we extend our love to their families, to their cousins and brothers serving in the battalion here. The whole of the Black Watch is saddened by this loss. But while we feel this blow most keenly, we are the Black Watch and we will not be deterred from seeing our task through to a successful conclusion."

The bodies of the men were due to be flown to Basra airport later today for a repatriation ceremony before being returned to the UK and their families next week.

Mr Allawi voiced his appreciation for the sacrifices made by British troops in his country and thanked them for their "continual support". He added: "We pay our condolences to the three brave British soldiers who died.

"This is a sign that civilised nations are behind us and we are going to win our war on terrorism, move the democratic process forward and get the elections next January successfully. …

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