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Sunday, 7 April, 2002, 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
Blair faces revolt over Iraq
Tony Blair and George Bush
Blair's stance on Iraq will be questioned by Labour MPs
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair could face a backbench revolt over his signalled support for US action against Iraq.

Speaking after a summit in Texas with US President George W Bush, Mr Blair warned again that the threat of Iraq developing weapons of mass destruction could not be ignored.


When decisions are made people will be told, but it is a long way off yet

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw

The two premiers expressed their support for a regime change in Iraq, arguing the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein.

But UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw insisted the possibility of military action against Iraq was "a long way off".

However, Labour former defence minister Peter Kilfoyle said "Texan gung-ho commentary" was not helpful.

'Inflame Arab opinion'

"It may go down well in Texas but it will not in the Middle East or in a large section of the Labour Party," he told The Sunday Telegraph.

Left-wing Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn said Mr Blair would be quizzed closely at a Labour Party meeting on Wednesday about claims he was "being asked to deploy 25,000 British troops into Iraq and to start a bombing campaign there".

"The implications of that around the world are enormous. It is not going to hasten a peace process in the Middle East," he told BBC News 24.

"It is going to inflame Arab opinion against us and it will result in an awful lot of civilian deaths in Iraq and no doubt, British soldiers as well."

The Islington North MP said no evidence proved a link between the al-Qaeda network, blamed for the 11 September atrocities, and the Iraqi regime.


The world would be better off without him [Saddam Hussein] and so would the future

President Bush

Labour's Glenda Jackson told the Telegraph: "Any pre-emptive strike on Iraq without incontrovertible evidence that it has weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them would be both illegal and immoral."

Mr Blair was expected to tell an audience in College Station, Texas, on Sunday that leaving Saddam Hussein to develop weapons of mass destruction in breach of United Nations resolutions was "not an option".

'Heed the threat'

Mr Bush and Mr Blair have avoided mentioning immediate action against Iraq and have emphasised that further discussions are needed.

President Bush warned Saddam Hussein could link up with terrorists to spread weapons of mass destruction.

"The world would be better off without him and so would the future," he said.

Mr Blair said: "We must heed the threat [of weapons of mass destruction] and act to prevent it being realised.

"How we approach this... is a matter for discussion."

Dissuading force

But speaking on Sky News, Mr Straw refused to say whether US military action would take place as early as next year.

"A decision will be made very cautiously, carefully... and when decisions are made people will be told, but it is a long way off yet."

Lord Healey, former deputy leader of the Labour Party, said he did not believe Mr Blair's support for an attack on Iraq was absolute.

"According to quite a lot of the stories he is trying to dissuade Bush from carrying out another attack," he told BBC's Breakfast with Frost.

'UN affair'

"Action is not going to help unless it is very, very carefully targeted and you go simply for what you know for certain to be targets where they are producing these weapons."

Tory former prime minister Sir Edward Heath warned there should be "thorough discussions" before any action is taken.

"Mr Bush and the prime minister want to deal with Iraq but it is not their affair, it is a UN affair," he told Frost.

"Mr Bush can't run the world in the way he wants."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Nick Robinson
"They are talking tough in Texas"
Tim Reid, Washington Post
"The US sees Israel as a fellow victim of fundamentalist terror"
The BBC's Nick Robinson
"Blair hopes the President is listening"
See also:

06 Apr 02 | Middle East
US and UK call for Iraq 'change'
07 Apr 02 | UK Politics
No fashion quirks for Texas Tony
06 Apr 02 | Americas
Bush and Blair's united stance
03 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Short 'carpeted' over Iraq
25 Mar 02 | Americas
'Determined' US resigned to war
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