Blair to head for United States as memoirs are published

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Former prime minister Tony Blair, who took Britain into war in Iraq and Afghanistan, publishes his long-awaited memoirs on Wednesday but will leave for the United States as the book hits the shops.

Blair has pre-recorded his first political TV interview since leaving office in 2007 to coincide with the launch of "A Journey", which will be broadcast by the BBC on Wednesday.

But Blair will be out of the country for the book's publication, having been invited to a White House dinner by US President Barack Obama in his role as Middle East peace envoy.

He will then travel to Ireland for a book signing before returning to Britain for another signing, expected to be surrounded by tight security, on September 8.

Unusually for such a high-profile political autobiography in Britain, the book has not been serialised, and news organisations will not receive a copy until Wednesday.

But some reports have hinted that the book could reopen old wounds between Blair and the man who eventually succeeded him as prime minister, Gordon Brown, whose fierce rivalry marked the Labour Party's time in office.

Blair strongly defended Britain's role in the Iraq war when he appeared before an ongoing inquiry into the conflict in January.

But campaigners united under the Stop the War Coalition banner are to hold a protest outside a central London bookshop on Wednesday.

Blair announced this month he will donate all the proceeds of the autobiography to the Royal British Legion, a charity which helps severely injured war veterans.

According to reports, he received a 4.6-million-pound (5.6-million-euro, 7.2-million-dollar) advance for the book and sales are expected to generate a far bigger sum.

Online seller Amazon said "A Journey" was already ranked 11th on the bestseller list of its British site, although it declined to give any sales figures.

Wednesday's interview will be closely watched to see if Blair lends his support to any of the candidates to lead the Labour Party following Brown's defeat in the general election in May.

The leadership race is developing into a battle between the brothers David and Ed Miliband.

David, the former foreign secretary, used to work as a policy advisor to Blair, to whom he remains close, while Ed advised Brown.

© 2010 AFP

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