7151Blair 'warns Bush' over Iraq
- Sep 1, 2002Blair 'warns Bush' over Iraq
September 1, 2002 Posted: 0956 GMT
LONDON, England -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair is reported to have told George W. Bush not to attack Iraq without
Britain's Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph newspapers said Blair has urged the U.S. president to open dialogue with the
United Nations to receive more support for attempting to topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein by force.
Blair had "friendly" talks with Bush lasting almost an hour on Thursday, the Sunday Telegraph said. "Tony told him to
re-engage with the U.N.", an unnamed senior cabinet minister told the weekly.
The Sunday Times also quoted a senior source as saying: "The prime minister pressed the need for a co-ordinated effort
to get the U.N. to back us."
Although one of the U.S.' closest allies in the war against terror, Blair is coming under increasing pressure at home
and abroad for his backing for U.S. calls for a military strike against Iraq, with Germany being one of the most
outspoken against such a move.
The prime minister has been attempting to persuade Bush to press for U.N. arms inspectors to be allowed back into Iraq
to check for any development of weapons of mass destruction.
Speaking on Saturday, in his first public comments on the issue since returning from his summer break, Blair insisted:
"The issue of weapons of mass destruction is an issue where the world cannot stand by and allow Iraq to be in flagrant
breach of all the United Nations resolutions." (Full story)
Meanwhile, opposition Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith has called on Blair to lead a public debate in Britain over
a war on Iraq and spell out the "clear and growing danger" Saddam Hussein represents.
Arguing that the prime minister has allowed the argument for action against Saddam to "drift" during the summer, he said
the UK and the U.S. had common cause for such action, given Saddam's refusal to divest himself of weapons of mass
destruction, adding that "the case for UK involvement can and should be made on its own merits."
Writing in the Sunday Times weekly newspaper, Duncan Smith said: "It is now time for the prime minister to explain to
the British people what he already knows -- that Iraq is a clear and growing danger to Britain.
"The next generation of Iraqi missiles will be able to reach the whole of Europe as well as the Indian subcontinent. On
top of that Saddam is just as likely to use terrorists to deliver such weapons."
He also warned that Britain could well be a target.
"We are a member of the UN Security Council that passed the Gulf War resolutions. We were a major component of the
allied coalition during that war. And today, British forces are still engaged in Iraq policing the no-fly zones that
protect Kurds in the north of the country and Shi'ite Muslims in the south."
Britain was faced with a choice, the Tory leader argued: to allow Saddam to build up his arsenal, including nuclear
weapons, or move against him before he did so.
"We can choose to act pre-emptively or we can prevaricate. But everyone should understand that the only winner from the
current confusion is Saddam Hussein," he added.
His remarks came as the UK's Ministry of Defence revealed Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon is to visit the United States for
a six-day trip surrounding the first anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks, the Press Association reported.
Hoon's visit will include talks with US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, widely seen as a "hawk" who is strongly in
favour of an attack on Iraq.
Meanwhile, Iraq's Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan has called on the European foreign ministers to stand firm against
U.S. plans to attack Iraq.
"The position of these countries like France, Belgium or Germany is one thing and when they meet and discuss opinions is
something else," Ramadan told reporters after meeting a group of Jordanian sympathisers.
"We are taking American threats seriously and we are working as if war is taking place now," he was quoted by Reuters