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Saturday, 1 February, 2003, 16:59 GMT
Iraq 'only weeks from war'
Tony Blair and George Bush at the White House
Blair has been Bush's staunchest ally in Europe
Iraq has been warned it is only weeks away from war unless it complies fully with UN demands to disarm.

US President George W Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair delivered their uncompromising message after talks at the White House.

KEY DATES
5 Feb - Powell to address UN Security Council
14 Feb - Further report from weapons inspectors
27 Mar - Blix submits new report to UN
Mr Bush reiterated that he would resist any attempt to "drag out" inspections in Iraq, warning that Baghdad remained a "danger to the world".

Mr Blair said Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was not co-operating with the UN inspectors and time was running out for him to do so.

Both leaders believe UN Resolution 1441 allows for the use of force against Iraq without further authorisation, but correspondents say they differ on the desirability of a second Security Council vote in favour of military action.

Mr Bush indicated he would accept a second resolution, but stressed that he would brook no delay in his quest to disarm Iraq.

Mohamed ElBaradei
Mohamed ElBaradei says Iraq must let inspectors talk privately to scientists
"Saddam Hussein is not disarming... Any attempt to drag the process on for months will be resisted by the United States," he said.

Mr Blair, for his part, has continued to express his confidence that the world community can come together on this issue, playing down any potential differences with Washington.

"I believe that there will be a second resolution," Mr Blair told reporters on the flight back to London.

"I think it will be very plain to people whether Saddam is co-operating or not in the next few weeks," he said.

"If he does not comply, we have to act."

TALKING POINT
Will Bush wait for UN backing?
The best outcome would be three vetoes, and the US and UK war-mongers with mud on their faces

Michael, Copenhagen, Denmark

Diplomats say the UK Government - aware of divisions within Europe as well as British public opinion - is putting far more political store on a second resolution than Washington.

"For the Americans, it's a case of 'OK, we'll go along with a second resolution, provided it's quick and the answer is yes' [to military action]," one Western diplomat told Reuters news agency.

Iraqi rhetoric

Iraq, which has repeatedly denied that it has any weapons of mass destruction, kept up the anti-US rhetoric on Saturday.

Government newspaper al-Jumhouriyah said: "The dictator of the new world, little Bush continues to accuse Iraq of trying to control this region and threaten America, while he himself threatens Iraq on a daily basis."

An editorial in Babel, a newspaper run by Saddam's eldest son Uday, attacked Mr Blair for meeting the US president.

The UK prime minister, it said, was acting like the "US foreign secretary", showing "disrespect" for British public opinion opposed to war.

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge, reporting from Baghdad, says President Saddam Hussein has spent the week consulting his military commanders and discussing strategies to defend the country against attack.

SECURITY COUNCIL
United Nations Security Council
For military action: United States, United Kingdom, Spain and Bulgaria
Sceptics or opposed: France, Russia, China, Germany and Syria
In doubt: Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan
Nine votes and no veto required to pass a resolution
He has invited the UN's chief weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, to return to Baghdad before they deliver their next interim report to the Security Council on 14 February.

But Mr Bush called the invitation a charade meant to "string the inspectors along".

The inspectors themselves deferred a decision on whether to return to Baghdad, saying "certain understandings" needed to be reached first.

Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix told the BBC's Today programme on Saturday he would welcome more time to carry out his work, but he would not request it because he was not confident it would achieve anything.

"And so long as Iraq's attitude on substance, as distinguished from process, remains what it is I don't feel that confidence."

European views

Mr Blair, now back in London, is continuing his diplomatic efforts, meeting South African President Thabo Mbeki on Saturday.

On Tuesday, he is to meet President Jacques Chirac to try to secure French support for a military strike on Iraq.

Mr Blair and seven other European leaders have backed the tough American stance on Iraq, but France and Germany say they have yet to be convinced there is any justification for an attack.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Paul Adams
"The first British fighting troops arrive in Kuwait this weekend"
Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix
has said his teams in Iraq are answerable only to the UN and not Washington or Baghdad
Tony Blair and George W Bush joint statement on Iraq


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See also:

01 Feb 03 | Politics
31 Jan 03 | Americas
31 Jan 03 | Politics
30 Jan 03 | Americas
29 Jan 03 | Politics
27 Jan 03 | Americas
01 Feb 03 | Middle East
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