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Sunday, December 20, 1998 Published at 14:06 GMT

Blair announces end to strikes: Full text

Full text of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's statement late on 19 December announcing the end of US and British military action against Iraq:

[ image: Tony Blair prepares to make his statement]
Tony Blair prepares to make his statement
The last wave of air strikes on Iraq has just ended. The final wave of British Tornados returned just before 1000 pm (2200 GMT).

All British and American aircrews have returned safely. We salute them and thank them for their courage. As ever we can be immensely proud of our servicemen and women.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's address in full
For obvious reasons, until this moment we have been unable to tell you the anticipated length of the campaign. But I can say now that it was always envisaged it would last four days.

That is both because such a campaign is the right and proportionate response to Saddam's breach of UN obligations and also because of our sensitivity to the holy month of Ramadan.

Objectives achieved

I will be holding a press conference tomorrow morning at 1100 am (1100 GMT). There we will give initial details of battle damage assessment, and an outline of our forward strategy including the diplomatic moves with our partners.

Tonight I can tell you that our objectives have been achieved.

We set out to diminish and degrade Saddam's military capability and we have done so; substantial damage has been inflicted upon his air defence systems; the command and control system for his armed forces; missile production capability; and systems which could be used for chemical and biological warfare.

Real damage done

In addition there has been real damage done to the Special Republican Guard organisation, the elite of his armed forces, heavily involved in the WMD (weapons of mass destruction) programme.

We have attacked targets with the greatest precision to minimise civilian casualties to the greatest extent possible. We regret deeply any loss of civilian life there has been.

Tonight, significant parts of Saddam's military infrastructure are in ruins. His ability to threaten his region has been diminished. His ability to develop weapons of mass destruction has been substantially diminished too.

What is more, he has now received the clearest possible signal of our intent to take action by force should he once again act in defiance of his international obligations in the face of an international community united in its determination to contain the threat he poses.

Ready to act again

He should be in no doubt that we remain ready to act again. As long as Saddam stays, the threat and our readiness to confront it stays.

And once again, I say to the Iraqi people our quarrel is not and never has been with you. We have a common enemy in Saddam. But whilst he remains in power, we will remain determined to prevent him abusing that power and putting at risk the stability of his region and the rest of the world.

For the moment, we can be satisfied with a job well done; proud of the forces who did what was asked of them; and proud of the part this country played in reducing the risk that Saddam poses, thereby making that region, and therefore the world, a safer place.

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