Blair arrives in southern Iraq on surprise visit

British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in southern Iraq Thursday on a surprise visit to British troops. The pre-Christmas visit - Blair's fourth trip to Iraq since the 2003 invasion - was intended partly to thank the 8,000 British troops, who will be away from home over the holiday period. Blair flew into Basra from Kuwait aboard a British military plane on a trip not disclosed in advance for security reasons. Blair was due to be briefed by senior British and American officials, including US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad; the senior British officer in Iraq, Gen. Nick Houghton; and Gen. George Casey, the U.S. military commander in the country, on Iraq's still-parlous security situation and the outcome of last week's national election.