BAGHDAD, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair ended a brief and unexpected visit to the southern Iraqi city of Basra Sunday where he addressed British soldiers.
Blair told his troops their work in the country was "not just war, but work for peace and to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people."
He told them they represented the "pioneers of the new military of the 21st Century," and vowed to continue "providing assistance" to the Iraqis until attaining a stable country and independent government.
Blair also met with the governor of the city and member of the interim Iraqi Governing Council Wael Abdul Latif, in the presence of a representative of the U.S. forces. The men discussed a British role in the reconstruction of Iraq, and especially Basra, where most of the 10,000 British troops are deployed.
The British prime minister's visit, his second to Iraq since the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime, came as London seeks to continue its role in the Arab country alongside the United States following the transfer of power to the Iraqis expected next June.