Blair to Give Evidence to Iraq Study Group

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Prime Minister Tony Blair will give evidence next week to a high-level Washington commission trying to devise a new course for the war in Iraq, Blair's office said Saturday.

A spokeswoman said Blair would speak Tuesday by video-link to the Iraq Study Group, led by former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Democratic congressman Lee Hamilton of Indiana.

She refused to speculate on what Blair would say. The Guardian newspaper reported Saturday that he would urge the Bush administration to open talks with Iraq's neighbors Syria and Iran and to push for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a way of defusing Mideast tensions.

Blair has been U.S. President George W. Bush's staunchest ally in Iraq, and has sent more troops to the country than any nation besides the United States — a position that has cost him support at home. Rising violence in Iraq, and a British death toll that has topped 120, have heightened calls for a change of strategy.

Blair has repeatedly said British troops will remain in Iraq until Iraqi forces can take responsibility for security.

Blair is expected to outline his ideas on Iraq Monday, at a major foreign policy speech in London.

Top U.S. officials are reviewing strategy in Iraq following last week's defeat by the Republicans in midterm congressional elections and the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, one of the chief architects of the war.

Many hopes rest on the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which is expected to give its recommendations by the end of the year.