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Friday, 26 July, 2002, 08:01 GMT 09:01 UK
Warning to Blair over Iraq
Tony Blair and George W. Bush
Blair and Bush: Warned not to go it alone
Tony Blair and his US allies would be trying to "act on behalf of the world" if they launched military strikes against Iraq, a senior Labour backbencher has warned.

Helen Jackson, a member of the party's ruling National Executive Committee, highlighted the dangers of "unilateral" action simply because they found Saddam Hussein's regime "unpleasant".


Unilateral action is not the way forward at the present time

Helen Jackson
Her warning came a day after Mr Blair insisted that a war against Iraq was not imminent.

He told the second of his new White House-style televised news conferences on Thursday that the government had not reached a decision about a potential attack on the country led by Saddam.

Mr Blair did however warn that dealing with weapons of mass destruction was the next step in the war against terror.

'Stop a war'

But Mrs Jackson, MP for Sheffield Hillsborough argued: "My understanding is that the drive behind the US wanting to take action is that they think Iraq is an unpleasant regime, which it is, that it isn't democratic, that it takes cruel action against its minority population and it may be developing significant and very dangerous weapons of war.

"But because it is an unpleasant regime is not justification in itself for one country, the US, extra powerful in the world, to take unilateral action.

"Unilateral action is not the way forward at the present time. It has to be internationally backed.

Helen Jackson
Jackson: The international community should force Iraq into compliance
"Anything that we can do to stop this culminating in a war is what we should be about."

Mrs Jackson said Mr Blair was both a good prime minister and well respected in Europe and world circles.

"He knows that developing into war is not the right way forward."

'World representative'

But, she said if UN weapons inspectors were not allowed back into Iraq, it was up to the international community in Europe and the UN to find ways to force Iraq "into compliance".

Any action taken against Iraq was not driven by the need of America or the UK to defend their borders.

"It is an issue where America, and I fear Britain, but I hope that Tony will take the right decision, is attempting to act on behalf of the world against a regime it does not like," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"Now that to me is a unilateral approach which is not acceptable."

Baroness Williams, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, said MPs should be able to debate the potential conflict.

"Let's not kid ourselves - once there are men and women in the field, no member of Parliament, except for a few, are likely to vote against a situation where we have troops at risk," she told Today.

'War not imminent'

During the Downing Street press conference, Mr Blair said he did not want to speculate about potential military action against Iraq, but he argued: "Action is not imminent - we are not at the point of a decision yet."

He said the West was not ready to release a promised dossier on Saddam Hussein.

MPs have been particularly critical of the government's handling of the foot and mouth outbreak and preparations to deal with future terrorist attacks.

But the issue most exercising left-wing Labour MPs has been the prospect of a new war with Iraq.

Reacting to Mr Blair's latest comments Labour's Paul Flynn said there was genuine concern on the government's backbenches.

He told BBC Radio 4's World at One programme: "It's very worrying to many Labour MPs that we might be engaging in a war, not with a man who lives in a cave, but with the leader of a sophisticated modern state and who certainly possesses if not nuclear weapons then biological and chemical weapons."

The MPs fear Mr Blair will agree later this summer to support a possible military offensive without first getting the approval of Parliament.


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26 Jul 02 | Politics
25 Jul 02 | Politics
25 Jul 02 | Politics
20 Jun 02 | Politics
19 Jun 02 | Politics
02 May 02 | Politics
18 Jul 02 | Hardtalk
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