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The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"It wont be quite so easy when the Prime Minister gets to Washington"
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Thursday, 22 February, 2001, 18:52 GMT
Blair defends new Iraq strikes
Tony Blair greets Canadian PM Jean Chretien
Tony Blair's tough talk came during a trip to Canada
Prime Minister Tony Blair has defended the latest American bombings of air defence targets in northern Iraq.

The attacks did not involve British aircraft, unlike last Friday's strikes, but Mr Blair insisted they were all a necessary part of the strategy to "contain" Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

We will continue to do what is necessary to contain him

Tony Blair
He was speaking at a joint news conference with Canadian premier Jean Chretien on the first leg of a tour that takes him to America and a meeting with President George W Bush on Friday.

Asked about the latest developments Mr Blair told journalists that it was important to get back to "first principles".

Saddam had killed thousands of his own people with chemical weapons and launched wars against both Iran and Kuwait, the prime minister said.

"The reason why we have to take action is to prevent him acquiring the capability to threaten the world again.

Yet more air strikes are no substitute for a review of policy towards Iraq

Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat
"We will continue to do what is necessary to contain him."

Mr Blair restated that action was being taken now because in January Iraq had launched more attacks against allied aircraft than during the whole of 2000.

The US warplanes attacked targets north of the city of Mosul.

US forces' European Command said the strike was in retaliation for anti-aircraft artillery being fired at aircraft patrolling the air exclusion zone imposed by the UK-US coalition which covers much of the north of the country.

Shadow defence secretary Iain Duncan Smith called on the coalition partners to show "fortitude and resolution" and not allow Saddam Hussein to position himself as a victim.

Risk to allied aircraft

"These attacks are justified because Iraqis continue to breach the UN agreement," he said.

"If the attacks did not take place then American and British planes could be shot down."

He called on other European Union nations to support the latest action.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said: "Yet more air strikes are no substitute for a review of policy towards Iraq.

"After 10 years Saddam Hussein is still in power and ordinary Iraqis have born the brunt of sanctions."

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See also:

22 Feb 01 | Middle East
Iraq hit by new air strikes
22 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Europe no threat to Nato, says Blair
22 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Protesters seek to end Iraqi sanctions
22 Feb 01 | Middle East
Smart bombs 'missed Iraqi targets'
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