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U.S. State Department hails departing Tony Blair as good friend of American people

The U.S. State Department hailed departing British Prime Minister Tony Blair as a good friend of the American people and "a terrific leader" for his country.

Spokesman Sean McCormack said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has had an excellent working relationship with Blair, who announced that he will step down from his post on June 27.

"He is a "staunch defender of freedom," McCormack said.

He said the United States will work closely with Blair during the six weeks left of his term in office and with his successor.

Rice knows Blair's apparent successor, Treasury chief Gordon Brown, McCormack said, noting that the two attended a dinner gathering recently when Brown was here for World Bank meetings.