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Cherie Blair, baby Leo already resting at home

Cherie Blair, the wife of Prime Minister Tony Blair, left a London hospital for the privacy of 10 Downing St. hours after giving birth to a boy early Saturday.

"Cherie and the baby are absolutely fine," Blair told reporters outside the official residence Saturday afternoon. "He's a gorgeous little boy, and they are just resting now."

The fourth child for the Blairs and the first baby born to a serving prime minister in 152 years, Leo Blair arrived at 12:25 a.m. weighing 6 pounds 12 ounces. He was named for Blair's father.

Cherie Blair, 45, had a natural childbirth, and Blair said he was in the delivery room.

"It was quite a long labor," he said. "It went on for quite a few hours, but it is quite a struggle in the end for Cherie, and I think she is very relieved it's all over."

Looking tired but relaxed, Blair, 47, said: "I feel like any father who sees their baby born. It's very moving really, and if any of you have been through it, you'll know it."

The baby, he said, had been "really good through the night."

"The thing is," he continued, "you forget how tiny they are, and also changing nappies in the middle of the night."

He quickly added, "It's quite an experience, but it's worse for Cherie, I think."

There has been tremendous interest in the arrival of a new Blair, but the family delivered on its wish to keep the event as private as possible. Except for the curbside news conference and the flowers that kept arriving at the famous black front door with the white 10 on it, the day was much like any other Saturday at the Downing Street residence, where the Blairs have made a point of trying to produce as normal an upbringing as possible for their family. The couple's other children, Euan, 16, Nicky, 14, and Kathryn, 12, have been kept out of the spotlight.

A single police officer kept guard outside, and a construction team worked noisily on the pavement opposite the brown brick building housing the family apartment. Asked if he was worried he might be waking the Blairs' newborn son, the drill operator, Chris Southam, 28, said, "I don't feel guilty because I have to work seven days a week."

Congratulations poured in from Queen Elizabeth II, political leaders and a friend across the Atlantic _ Hillary Rodham Clinton, who telephoned Mrs. Blair.

Mrs. Blair had gone to the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital at noon Friday. The prime minister followed in the evening, with an aide carrying an overnight bag that was all the evidence the Saturday morning newspapers needed to make the imminence of the new arrival their page one headlines.

A story in Saturday's Independent captured the mood. "The rumors started at lunchtime," it read. "A 45-year-old woman had gone into labor, and Fleet Street prepared to give birth."

_ Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.