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Blair admits he has to rebuild public trust

London, July 30 (Reuters): Britain’s Tony Blair, battling the worst political crisis of his premiership, said today his enthusiasm for office remained strong but he accepted he needed to rebuild public trust in the wake of the Iraq war.

“There’s a big job of work still to do and my appetite to do it is still undiminished,” Blair said when asked if he would stay on for a full third term if his Labour Party were re-elected.

“But who the country elects is ultimately a matter for the country,” Blair added.

Polls show that public trust in Blair and his government has plunged following the Iraq conflict and after the apparent suicide of a scientist caught up in a row over the reasons for going to war. “I accept there is an issue that we have to confront,” Blair told his final news conference ahead of a summer break when asked about sliding levels of trust. Blair, 50, will go down in history on Saturday when his administration becomes the longest Labour government ever.

But the milestone has coincided with calls, some from Labour members, for Blair’s resignation over the justification of the Iraq conflict following the failure to unearth any weapons of mass destruction.

The government’s public image was dealt a further hefty blow by the death earlier this month of scientist David Kelly.

Kelly, who died from a slit wrist, was apparently driven to suicide after government ministers named him as the source of a BBC report that accused the government of exaggerating evidence of Iraq’s weapons to justify an unpopular war.

Blair shirked a barrage of questions over his government’s responsibility in Kelly’s death, saying an independent judicial inquiry should first be allowed to make its report. He insisted that he believed he was right to wage war on Iraq and said the government had to argue that to the public.

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