We have enough troops in Iraq, says Blair

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Britain already has sufficient troops in Iraq to meet the current situation, Tony Blair said today.

The Prime Minister appeared to rule out sending British reinforcements in the wake of Spain's decision to withdraw its forces from Iraq.

Following talks with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Downing Street, Mr Blair said: "We keep the question of troops under review at all times. The advice that we have is that we have sufficient troops to do the job."

Mr Blair acknowledged the coalition would have to "make good any deficiencies" caused by the withdrawal of the Spanish.

However he noted that both Japan and South Korea were committing troops to the region.

The Prime Minister also defended his policy in Iraq and the Middle East in the face of unprecedented criticism by 52 former senior diplomats.

On Iraq, he said it was vital to restore stability and democracy to ensure the country did not fall back into the hands of another dictator like Saddam Hussein or "fanatics and terrorists".

Mr Blair said he totally understood the "frustration" felt by the diplomats on the question of the Middle East.

However, he stressed it was important to understand that both Palestinians and Israelis were suffering in the current situation.

"It is important that when we look at the problem in the Middle East, we accept that the suffering of the Palestinians is appalling and we need to change that but we also accept that there are innocent Israelis being blown up by bombs and terrorist acts."

He said it was in the interests of both sides to restore security in the region and added that it was "immensely important" that they returned to the process set out in the Middle East "road map".

"I don't think any discussion of that issue is right unless we balanced the suffering on both sides and recognise that both sides are suffering in this situation," he said.

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