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By ESPN Staff

Blair wants unified Britain soccer team at '12 Olympics

LONDON -- Tony Blair wants a unified Britain playing soccer at the 2012 London Olympics.

The prime minister said it's time for the home countries to play under one flag for the first time since the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.

"I think it would be a good idea," Blair told the Times of London on Wednesday. "When you are hosting the Olympics and you have lots of countries who send their teams, it would be a shame if we didn't have one of our own."

London 2012 chairman Sebastian Coe agreed with the prime minister.

"I want a Britain team, we will have a Britain team," Coe told The Associated Press. "But I also want to maintain the independence of the domestic federations to compete in European cups and World Cups."

The International Olympic Committee doesn't recognize separate teams from Britain's home countries -- England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Each country's soccer association qualifies for and plays separately at the World Cup and European Championship.