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BLAIR REJECTS DEMANDS TO DEVALUE BRITISH CURRENCY

Despite fears of an economic downturn, Prime Minister Tony Blair told Labor Party activists Tuesday that he will not intervene to devalue the British pound or boost state spending.

"Of course we'd rather be popular . . . but better to be unpopular than wrong," Blair said, delivering his keynote address at his governing party's annual conference in this northern seaside town.

Left-wingers, who oppose Blair's centrist policies, and moderate trade unions, who worry their products will be too expensive to attract buyers overseas, have urged fundamental changes in economic policy.

In particular, they want Blair to restore to politicians the authority to set interest rates, a power he gave to the Bank of England after Labor's election victory over the Conservatives 17 months ago.

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