British Prime Minister Tony Blair has used the Labour party’s annual conference to launch a new campaign defending his decision to join the war in Iraq.

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Mr Blair insisted he had no regrets at all about joining the US-led campaign to ouist Saddam Hussein, despite the fact he is suffering the worst opinion poll ratings in his six years as Prime Minister.

“I don’t think we have anything to apologise for as a country,” Mr Blair said from the southern English seaside resort of Bournemouth, scene of the Labour conference.

The British leader also insisted that weapons of mass destruction will be found.

“You will find that when that co-operation is given and people really know Saddam is not coming back we will find the proof we want,” he said.

The controversy over the decision to back the invasion of Iraq has been fanned by a judicial inquiry into the apparent suicide of government weapons expert David Kelly, after he was identified as the source for a BBC report alleging that Mr Blair’s government exaggerated the case for war.

Home Secretary David Blunkett conceded the way the controversial claim – that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes – was portrayed had been “unhelpful”. He accepted the statement should have clearly referred to battlefield munitions and not long-range missiles.

But Labour party opponents of Mr Blair’s stance on Iraq were denied the chance to voice their feelings in a vote during the conference in Bournemouth.

In a move that spared Mr Blair the embarrassment of potential defeat, Iraq was not chosen as one of four “contemporary” issues that will be voted on by delegates, who decided instead to focus on domestic issues.

Meanwhile the Prime Minister’s popularity has slumped badly in the wake of the war. A weekend poll revealed almost half of all voters want the Prime Minister to quit.

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