World

Mortar shells fired as British PM visits Iraq

The headquarters of British forces in Basra as well as Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone were attacked on Saturday during final visits from British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The unrelenting danger in Iraq was evident on Saturday as Tony Blair made what is believed to be his final visit to the country as British prime minister.

Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, at a press conference in Baghdad on Saturday, later told British troops in Basra they were doing 'brilliant work.' ((Stefan Rousseau/Associated Press) )

Shortly after Blair arrived in Baghdad's Green Zone, at least three mortar rounds shook the heavily fortified compound.

One person was wounded, U.S. embassy spokesman Lou Fintor said. However, officials stressed that Blair was not in any danger.

Later in the day, Blair paid tribute to British troops at their base in Basra, southern Iraq, telling them they were doing "brilliant work."

Although his itinerary was unannounced, two mortar rounds exploded near the base, rocking the building where he spoke.

Like the Green Zone in the Iraqi capital, where the Iraqi government and U.S.-led coalition have their headquarters, the British headquarters in Basra regularly comes under attack.

While in Baghdad, Blair met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani. Afterwards, he told reporters, "There are mortar attacks and terrorist attacks happening every day — that's the reality."

Blair also appeared irritated at repeated questions about the violence and asked one reporter: "Why don't you listen to what the person who is the president of Iraq says about Iraq? They are not saying there's no violence or terrorism in Iraq. What they're saying is there is also progress and there is change.

"The fact is, every time there is an attempt to make progress, of course the terrorists redouble their efforts, and our response should not be then to walk away or to give in. It's to stand up to them."

Blair, on his seventh trip to Iraq as prime minister before he leaves office in June, earlier said he planned to reassure al-Maliki that his departure will not end Britain's support.

At a joint news conference with al-Maliki and Talabani, Blair said he had "no regrets" about his role in the U.S.-led invasion that removed then Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power in 2003.

Since then,148 British armed forces personnel have died.

now