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Monday, 8 April, 2002, 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK
Blair to set out Mid-East stance
Tony Blair gives his keynote speech
Some MPs think Mr Blair is too close to Mr Bush
Prime Minister Tony Blair is to spell out the role the UK could play in efforts to bring about a ceasefire in the Middle East.

Mr Blair will make a Commons statement on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Wednesday after his talks in Texas with US President George Bush.

Speaking in Texas on Sunday, Mr Blair said Britain stood ready to help monitor a ceasefire in the Middle East.


Unless the withdrawal is immediate the EU should impose sanctions

Menzies Campbell
Liberal Democrats

The comments came in a speech in which the prime minister again provided strong backing for Mr Bush's stance on possible military action against Iraq.

Mr Blair is facing growing discontent over the issue among Labour backbenchers.

On Monday, Downing Street said the prime minister had been having talks about a possible role for the UK in the Middle East since the autumn.

A spokesman said a number of countries were involved in the talks and that any monitors would not be troops on the ground.

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein
The message to Hussein is clear, says Blair
He said the precise personnel and number and mix of nationalities have yet to be resolved.

Mr Blair arrived back in the UK on Monday morning after his visit to Mr Bush's Texas ranch.

The two men have both pressed Israel to withdraw immediately from the West Bank - ''and immediately means immediately," Downing Street said.

'Dangerous game'

Foreign Office Minister Ben Bradshaw warned the Israelis that they were playing a "dangerous game".

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said: "Unless the withdrawal is immediate the EU should impose sanctions."


We are still in the position of identifying the problem and laying down conditions for Saddam

Tony Blair
Mr Blair's statement to the Commons on Wednesday will be watched closely by backbenchers concerned over his support for possible military action against Saddam Hussein if the Iraqi leader fails to readmit UN weapons inspectors.

Nearly 150 backbench MPs, mostly Labour, have already signed a Commons motion expressing "deep unease" about British involvement in any attacks.

Speaking to journalists on the plane back to London, Mr Blair said: "What you will find is that what most people want is for us to act for the right reasons in the right way."

Growing unease

He said he believed that few people would defend the Iraqi leader.

"All I say to people is let's not get ahead of ourselves here. We are still in the position of identifying the problem and laying down conditions for Saddam.

"People don't want us to act precipitately for the wrong reasons in the wrong way."

Mr Blair has said Britain, America and the EU should be prepared to act wherever terrorism or weapons of mass destruction threatened them.


To deal with Iraq, you need to deal with the problems in the UN, not through unilateral or bilateral action

Peter Kilfoyle MP
He said action was not imminent and offered Saddam Hussein a possible way out by allowing weapons inspectors unlimited access to his facilities.

But he added: "If necessary the action should be military and again, if necessary and justified, it should involve regime change".

Promising a "calm and measured" approach, he stressed that leaving Iraq to develop weapons of mass destruction was not an option.

'Irresponsible'

Mr Blair, in a hint over action against the "axis of evil" states targeted by President Bush, also said: "We should not shirk" from confronting other countries building up weapons of mass destruction.

Mr Blair and Mr Bush
Blair and Bush have formed a strong alliance
Former minister Glenda Jackson argued it was "irresponsible" to heighten rhetoric over Iraq without evidence that Saddam was creating weapons of mass destruction and could deliver them.

"Until that potential has been verified, the international community should be concentrating on what is already happening in the Middle East," she said.

Veteran MP Tam Dalyell indicated Mr Blair would face stern opposition at a Parliamentary Labour Party meeting on Wednesday.

Labour MP George Galloway accused Mr Blair of "basking in the adulation of the hard right" US Republican administration"

And Labour former defence minister Peter Kilfoyle said: "I do have concerns about being seen to be tied in some of the more adventurous notions of the American administration.

"To deal with Iraq, you need to deal with the problems in the UN, not through unilateral or bilateral action."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Ian Pannell in Washington
"White House aides are delighted that Tony Blair has given his strongest backing yet against Iraq"
Iraq's London representative Dr Mudhaffar Amin
"Iraq is wiling to negotiate"
The BBC's Mark Mardell
"The Prime Minister is somebody who can put a restraining hand on President Bush"
See also:

08 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Blair ready to take on critics
08 Apr 02 | Middle East
Iraq vows to defy Western 'enemy'
07 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Blair faces revolt over Iraq
07 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Blair faces dissent over Iraq
06 Apr 02 | Middle East
US and UK demand Israel pullout
06 Apr 02 | Americas
Allies sit down to 'mammoth task'
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