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Blair speaks his heart out

By Hasan Suroor

LONDON, OCT. 1. For the second time in less than a year, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, on Friday underwent a minor heart operation to correct his irregular heartbeat, but before he went into hospital this morning he set at rest speculation about his political future saying his heart condition had not `impeded' his work or affected his appetite for power.

He intended to stay on in Downing Street for another five years, he said sending the political temperature in Westminster soaring as critics accused him of attempting to "cling on to power.''

Routine procedure

Doctors described the operation, which lasted more than two hours, as a `routine' procedure and Mr. Blair was expected to be back at his desk on Monday. He suffers from "supra-ventricular tachycardia'' which causes the heart to beat faster than normal resulting in palpitation and breathlessness. He was thought to have been cured after an operation last October but the problem has recurred.

Mr. Blair broke the news in a dramatic TV interview to the BBC on Thursday saying, "I've had it for couple of months.'' He was keen to emphasise that it had "not impeded'' him doing his work. He made clear that he intended to lead his party into a third general election and stay on for a full term, contrary to speculation that he might step down to make room for Gordon Brown, the Chancellor,.

"I want to put myself forward for a third term and, if elected, I would serve that full term. But... . I would not then stand for a further term beyond that,'' he said.

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