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BLAIR MARKS MILESTONE BY DEFENDING HIS RECORD

Prime Minister Tony Blair spent Wednesday -- his 10th anniversary as leader of Britain's ruling Labor Party -- defending his government's record at home and in Iraq.

In a boisterous House of Commons debate, Blair rattled off his achievements to cheers of support from many of his lawmakers.

"In this Labor government, we have had more people in work, the first-ever minimum wage, lowest interest rates and inflation for years, best-ever exam results, more teachers, more nurses and crime down," said Blair, facing down his chief political opponent, Conservative Party leader Michael Howard.

Howard congratulated Blair on his anniversary. "They have been 10 years of deep frustration for the ambitions of my party," he said.

But Blair's accomplishments have been tarnished by the continuing fallout from the Iraq War. Blair's support for the U.S.-led invasion and his close relationship with President Bush have opened a chasm between him and sections of his party.

His popularity has slumped, and many lawmakers question whether their charismatic leader has become a liability.

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