Britain's Brown starts his run

Published May 12, 2007

LONDON - Gordon Brown signaled a shift in policy in Iraq and a new vision for Britain as he launched his campaign Friday to become the country's next prime minister.

Appearing before a crowd of handpicked supporters only hours after Prime Minister Tony Blair formally endorsed his candidacy, Brown, who has waited more than a decade for his chance to lead the country, strode to the lectern and confidently laid out a platform that promised to be both compassionate and tough.

"I will listen, and I will learn. I will strive to meet people's aspirations, " Brown said. "I want to lead a government humble enough to know its place."

Brown signaled that as prime minister, he would abandon Blair's presidential style of leadership by restoring Parliament's authority in decisions such as when to go to war. Government must be accountable, he said.

"I accept that mistakes have been made, " Brown said, without offering specifics. "We will keep our obligations to the Iraqi people. These are obligations that are part of U.N. resolution, they are in support of a democracy. I do think that over the next few months the emphasis will shift."

The question is how much Brown will shift Britain's role in the war, which has divided the nation. He indicated he wants to devote more time and resources to providing jobs and basic services for the Iraqi people.

Brown did not outline specifics on his Iraq policy. He said he will make his first trip to Iraq in the coming weeks to inspect the situation.

Brown's speech at a converted school in central London was the first act in his campaign to become Labor Party chief, and as a result, British leader. It also marked Brown's first effort to emerge from the shadow of the telegenic Blair.

President Bush praised Brown's forthrightness, describing him as "easy to talk to."

But it remains to be seen how close the two men might become. Brown has been more reserved in his comments about Bush, whose alliance with Blair cost the Labor Party votes.

Bush and Blair have had a close relationship, speaking regularly by phone and videoconference and meeting for talks at least twice a year since 2003.