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Last Updated: Friday, 18 July, 2003, 18:48 GMT 19:48 UK
Blair begins Asian tour
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair during a news conference in the Cross Hall of the White House on 17 July.
Mr Blair said history would forgive the invasion of Iraq
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has arrived in Japan to begin an Asia tour that is being overshadowed by questions over the war in Iraq.

He headed to Japan from a seven-hour visit to Washington, where he and US President George W Bush defended their decision to go to war.

The Asia trip, which will see Mr Blair go on to South Korea, China and Hong Kong, was set to be dominated by the issue of North Korea's nuclear weapons programme.

But the prime minister was informed mid-flight of the discovery of a body by British police hunting missing UK weapons expert Dr David Kelly.

Dr Kelly had been named by the government as the possible source for a controversial BBC story on Iraq, and had gone missing from his home in Oxfordshire on Thursday.

The government has announced that if the body is formally identified as Dr Kelly, an independent judicial inquiry will be held into the circumstances surrounding his death.

'Carnage and suffering'

In a separate development, the US has agreed to suspend controversial military court proceedings against two Britons held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Mr Blair is preparing the ground for a fresh justification for war in the event WMD never turn up
The BBC's Nick Assinder

The move, disclosed by a UK Government spokesman, follows Mr Blair's meeting with Mr Bush at the White House.

Mr Blair on Thursday became the fourth British prime minister to address a joint meeting of Congress, where he received a rapturous welcome.

He told Congress that even if Britain and the US had been wrong about weapons of mass destruction, history would forgive the removal of Saddam Hussein.

"If we are wrong, we will have destroyed a threat that at its least is responsible for inhuman carnage and suffering," he said.

Nuclear agenda

But both he and Mr Bush again insisted their decision to invade Iraq had been based on sound intelligence.

Our job is to be there with you - we will be with you in the fight for liberty
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair

"Saddam Hussein produced and possessed chemical and biological weapons, and was trying to reconstitute his nuclear weapons program," Mr Bush told reporters after Mr Blair's speech.

"We won't be proven wrong."

Mr Blair will later be meeting Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at a mountain resort south of Tokyo.

Concern over North Korea's weapons programme is expected top Mr Blair's trip to the region.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Tokyo says that although Britain has no obvious role in the crisis, its diplomatic ties with Pyongyang and Mr Blair's close personal relationship with Mr Bush will make his views valued.

Japan, China and South Korea urgently want North Korea coaxed into talks which might bring and end to its development of weapons-grade plutonium.

Pyongyang is insisting on direct talks with Washington, but the US has ruled that out.





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