updated 2/22/2004 9:00:26 AM ET 2004-02-22T14:00:26

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, his popularity bruised after leading Britain into a divisive war in Iraq, said he intends to seek a third term in office.

In an interview published Sunday in the News of the World newspaper, Blair said that “whatever the problems and pressures, this is an immensely enjoyable and fulfilling job and I intend to carry on doing it. I will be putting myself forward.”

An election must be held by mid-2006, but could come next year.

Blair’s Labour Party was elected in 1997 after 18 years of Conservative rule, and won another landslide victory in 2001. But Blair’s decision to join the U.S.-led war in Iraq has hurt his popularity, and many Labour lawmakers are unhappy at the government’s plans for reforming public services.

“You have people kicking lumps out of you, but you can live with it, and I do,” Blair was quoted as saying.

Some reports have suggested Blair might step down as party leader in favor of Treasury chief Gordon Brown, who is thought to covet the top job. In the British parliamentary system, the leader of the party with the most seats in the House of Commons usually becomes prime minister.

Blair said his political fate lay with voters.

“I have made it clear this is a decision in the end for the British people at the next election. They are the ones who decide,” he was quoted as saying.

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