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Sunday, 29 September, 2002, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Blair warns Iraq over weapons
Demonstration in London 28 September
The UK government faces domestic opposition
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair says President Saddam Hussein of Iraq will be disarmed, one way or the other.


I hope [Saddam Hussein] can be forced by international pressure, but if not we have to be prepared as an international community to force him to do it the other way

Tony Blair

Mr Blair told the BBC there was no disagreement about two essentials - that Saddam Hussein posed a threat, and that he had to be disarmed. The only question was the best way of doing it.

He was speaking as Britain and the United States try to secure backing from other members of the UN Security Council for a tough new resolution on Iraq.

A senior UK official is in Beijing for talks with Chinese officials, following visits by American and British envoys to Paris and Moscow.

Iraq says US jets have bombed the civilian airport in the city of Basra, attacking passenger terminals and the radar system.

'Confident'

Mr Blair said Saddam Hussein had one choice.

"If he wants to avoid conflict he needs to do what the international community is saying," he told the Breakfast with Frost programme.

Open in new window : Who backs war?
Where key nations stand on Iraq

Asked if Britain would act - along with the United States - if the UN failed to endorse military action against Iraq, Mr Blair did not answer directly.

President Bush with Tony Blair
Bush and Blair are working hand in hand on Iraq
But he said that the Iraqi leader would be forced to give up his weapons of mass destruction, in any event.

Mr Blair said he was confident that the United Nations would endorse a strong resolution against Iraq.

The resolution drafted by the US and Britain demands "full, final and complete destruction" of Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction. It would let UN inspectors to roam freely around the country.

If Iraq failed to comply with any aspect of the resolution's demands, the draft says "all necessary means" could be used against it - a diplomatic term for military force.

Mr Blair was speaking on the opening day of the annual conference of his Labour Party - which is divided on the use of force against Iraq.

The BBC's Nicholas Jones at the conference says a big anti-war demonstration in London on Saturday has encouraged delegates who want the conference to say that Britain must not join an American attack unless it is authorised by the UN.

Support withheld

As Mr Blair spoke, British envoy William Ehrman was in Beijing to try to secure Chinese approval for the British-American draft resolution.

Key demands
Acceptance of resolution within seven days
Declaration of arms programmes within 30 days
Access for inspectors to all sites
Armed guards to accompany inspectors
Use of military force for any non-compliance
Although China has said Baghdad should comply with disarmament resolutions, it has also said that any attack not backed by the Security council would have incalculable consequences.

The diplomatic offensive has already taken American and British envoys to Paris and Moscow, although there has been no clear message of support from either capital.

Speaking after meeting US and British officials on Saturday, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov declined to comment on the draft.

He merely said Moscow favoured "the quickest possible return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq".

The envoys also made little headway on Friday in Paris, where President Jacques Chirac said he continued to support a two-step approach.

Russia, France and China - as permanent members of the Security Council - have the right of veto over any resolution.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's John Pienaar
"Mr Blair has been trying to win over the doubters"
Prime Minister Tony Blair
"Our purpose is disarmament"

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See also:

29 Sep 02 | Middle East
28 Sep 02 | Politics
28 Sep 02 | Americas
28 Sep 02 | Americas
28 Sep 02 | Media reports
26 Sep 02 | Americas
26 Sep 02 | Americas
24 Sep 02 | Politics
26 Sep 02 | Americas
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