Tony Blair announced on Thursday he would step down on June 27 after a decade as prime minister, and told Britons disillusioned by the war in
Iraq that he had always done what he believed was right.
Blair's popularity has suffered since he sent British forces to join the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. A Labour Party rebellion in September forced him to say he would quit within a year, opening the way for Gordon Brown to take over.
"Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right," Blair told Labour Party members in his constituency in northern England. "I may have been wrong, that's your call. But believe one thing, if nothing else: I did what I thought was right for our country."
President George W. Bush, who developed a remarkably close relationship with Blair, said the prime minister was a long-term thinker and a man who kept his word.
"When Tony Blair tells you something, as we say in Texas, you can take it to the bank. We've got a relationship such that we can have really good discussions -- so I'll miss him, he's a remarkable person and I consider him a good friend," he said.
Blair's resignation triggers a contest to lead the Labour Party that finance minister Brown is favorite to win. Labour said its new leader and deputy would be announced on June 24.
Gordon Brown is going to be a disaster for the entire world.
We go up one with Sarkozy, and down one with Brown the very next day.