British Prime Minister Tony Blair, on a surprise visit to Baghdad today (Tuesday), has expressed hope that all Iraqis will take part in next month's elections.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, Mr. Blair referred to the country's election officials as "heroes who are risking their lives" to create a democratic Iraq.

This is Mr. Blair's first visit to Baghdad. There was no prior announcement for security reasons.

The British prime minister visited British troops stationed around the southern Iraqi city of Basra in mid-2003 and again in January of this year.