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Thursday, February 5, 1998 Published at 17:39 GMT

World: Americas

Blair resolute over use of force
image: [ The Blairs arrived at the windswept Andrews Air Force Base ]
The Blairs arrived at the windswept Andrews Air Force Base

The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has resolutely confirmed his belief that military force could solve the Iraqi crisis.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair says why he believes force may be necessary (6'56") VIDEO
He made the new commitment in a live television interview with the ABC network on Thursday at the start of his three-day visit to Washington for talks with US President Bill Clinton.

Audio version
Mr Blair said Britain and America were looking at "every single part of this" to make sure any action was "effective".

But he was resolute that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would have to comply with UN Security Council resolutions and allow uninhibited access to UN weapons inspection teams.

'Ruthless dictator' claim repeated

[ image: Blair: Saddam is a
Blair: Saddam is a "completely ruthless dictator"
Mr Blair again branded Saddam a "completely ruthless dictator" and warned that the threat to world peace was real, saying he "must be stopped".

He said most people would be delighted if Saddam was removed from office but that was not the aim of any planned action.

"Our objectives are very clear. Our objective is to bring him back into line with the will of the international community expressed in the Security Council resolutions.

"What is plain is that unless diplomacy is backed up by the willingness to use force then diplomacy has no chance of success.

"It all depends on Saddam Hussein. If he comes back into line with Security Council resolutions, abides by his agreements, allows us to ensure he's not developing weapons of mass destruction then we can have a diplomatic solution.

"But if he doesn't then we will have to force him to do so."

Asked what could be achieved by military action, Mr Blair refused to be drawn in detail, saying only it would force Saddam to co-operate.

He added: "The thing that is so important to emphasise to our people, the British people and the American people is that this threat from Saddam Hussein is a real threat."

"This threat from Saddam Hussein is not an abstract or a theoretical one, it's a real one. He has used chemical weapons before, indeed on his own people.

Tony Blair: stopping Saddam (17")
"He is a completely ruthless dictator. He operates according to no scruples or canons of international law and he is somebody who must be stopped otherwise the threat to world peace from allowing him to develop these weapons will be all the greater."

Determined not to focus on sex

[ image: The two leaders want to focus on world affairs]
The two leaders want to focus on world affairs
Mr Blair's visit to Washington is likely to be dominated by how to deal with Iraq's refusal to co-operate with UN weapons inspectors.

His visit began with a rainy, blustery landing on Concorde, with winds at Andrews Air Force Base gusting up to 60mph.

Both the British and American Governments are determined that their talks will not be deflected by the Monica Lewinsky affair.

BBC Washington correspondent Stephen Sackur: "Clinton hopes the visit will be good for his presidency" (1'07")
Speaking to reporters during his flight to Washington, Mr Blair concentrated on the dangers to world peace posed by Saddam Hussein and the prospect of military action against Iraq if he does not allow UN supervision of his stocks of weapons of mass destruction.

"He is a nasty dictator sitting on an awful lot of nasty stuff," he said.

"Painful experience has taught the members of the Gulf War alliance that the only way to deal with Saddam Hussein is to stand absolutely firm. That is what we will do.

"I will be telling President Clinton that Britain with stand shoulder to shoulder with America and our other allies in facing up to the threat which Saddam Hussein poses," he said.

Mr Blair spoke of the need to win over public opinion to support military action if diplomacy fails.

BBC Chief political correspondent John Sergeant said: "Although he's clearly hoping that other countries will join a potential coalition against Iraq, he implied that if necessary the United States and Britain would be prepared to act alone.

"It appears that this period to educate the public is expected by Mr Blair to last for two or three weeks before any decision might be made to use force."

The two leaders are likely to turn their attention to the situation in Northern Ireland.

They are also expected to talk of their common approach to domestic issues such as crime, education and welfare reform.

Accompanying the Prime Minister are the Home Secretary Jack Straw, the Health Minister Alan Milburn and the Economic Secretary Helen Liddell, who will all take part in the talks.

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