WASHINGTON – President Bush lauded departing British Prime Minister Tony Blair Thursday and expressed confidence that Blair's likely successor, Gordon Brown, will also support the U.S.-led war in Iraq.
"I believe that Gordon Brown understands the consequences of failure," Bush told reporters.
He praised Blair as "a political figure who is capable of thinking over the horizon. He is a long-term thinker."
"I have found him to be a man who kept his word, which sometimes is rare in the political circles I run in," Bush said. "When Tony Blair tells you something as we say in Texas, you can take it to the bank."
Bush said that in discussions with Brown, he found him "to be easy to talk to, a good thinker."
Speaking with reporters, Bush said he will miss Blair, who announced earlier his decision to step down on June 27. Brown, Britain's treasury chief, is the apparent successor, and Bush was careful to point out that the final decision on Brown's future has yet to be made.
"I have found him to be an open and engaging person," Bush said, speaking of Brown.
Of Blair, Bush said: "He is a remarkable person and I consider him a good friend," Bush said of his close ally in the Iraq war.
Earlier, White House press secretary Tony Snow said that Blair has been an "extraordinary leader of the United Kingdom."
He and Bush are "strong friends and allies but also the prime minister has demonstrated the ability to work with presidents of both parties," Snow said.
"We certainly appreciate everything he has done," he added.
At the State Department, spokesman Sean McCormack hailed Blair as a good friend of the American people and "a terrific leader" for his country.
He said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has had an excellent working relationship with Blair.
"He is a "staunch defender of freedom," McCormack said.
He said the United States will work closely with Blair during the six weeks left of his term in office and with his successor.
Rice knows Brown, McCormack said, noting that the two attended a dinner gathering recently when Brown was here for World Bank meetings.