LONDON, May 29: Britain's embattled Prime Minister Tony Blair said in a newspaper interview published on Saturday that he had no thoughts of stepping down and fully intended to lead the Labour Party into the next election, expected early next year.

On a flight to London from Sheffield, north England, where he had been campaigning for upcoming local and European elections, Blair - whose popularity has sunk in the polls since the Iraq war - was asked by the Daily Mirror whether he would carry on.

"Yes, absolutely," he said. "Am I up for doing it? Yes I am."

"Having spent a couple of days with me you can see there is no shortage of desire on my part to carry on and do the job," he told the tabloid. "I do this job because I believe in what I am doing," he said. "And I have to say I enjoy doing the job."

Mr Blair has come under fire, especially in the wake of Iraq's prisoner abuse scandal, for being too close to US President George W. Bush.

Party members have openly questioned Blair's ability to win the general election, expected to be held in a year's time, with some calling for a change in leadership.

Asked when he thought Iraq would move away from crisis, he said: "I really think we will see that and sooner than people might think."

"There is no difference between us and the Americans on how things will operate once the handover of power to the Iraqis takes place on June 30," Mr Blair said.

"Whatever happens, I have to take the consequences for my decision," said Mr Blair, who defended Britain's tight relationship with the US.

"The reason I work with America is to deal with what I genuinely and honestly believe to be a modern security threat like nothing we have ever known," he said.

According to a YouGov poll on Saturday for the Daily Telegraph newspaper 29 per cent of British voters would like Finance Minister Gordon Brown to become prime minister, while only 25 per cent wanted Blair to stay in the job.-AFP

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