Blair: Bad planning not cause of violence in Iraq

British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Sunday rejected suggestions that the ongoing violence in Iraq was because of flawed planning by the US-led coalition, but said he felt a deep responsibility to end the killings. Blair said Washington had not put pressure on London to maintain its troop numbers in Iraq, despite U.S. President George W. Bush's plans to send in an additional 21,500 troops. Britain hopes to cut its 7,000-member force in the southern city of Basra by several thousand by midyear. "We have absolute responsibility to put things right. What I completely dispute is that the reason Iraq has got the difficulties it has ... is simply because of issues to do with planning before the war," Blair said in an interview on British Broadcasting Corp. television. Blair said British forces had completed an operation to hand front-line security responsibility to Iraqis in Basra, where he said the security situation is different from what US troops face in Baghdad. The transfer of front-line security is a significant step toward handing Iraqi authorities total control of Basra province.