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EDITIONS
Monday, 29 July, 2002, 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK
Blair warned over Iraq attack
King Abdullah and Tony Blair
Jordan's King Abdullah is urging restraint
Any US-led attack on Iraq would be easier to justify if it was sanctioned by a UN resolution tailor-made for such action, says the Labour chair of the House of Commons defence committee.

Speaking ahead of talks between Tony Blair and King Abdullah of Jordan, Bruce George said George Bush had a huge task to persuade other countries there was a case for attacking Iraq.


I think the evidence has to be presented that there are weapons of mass destruction

Bruce George
His remarks came as veteran left-winger Tony Benn said that a war on Iraq could cost the UK prime minister his job.

King Abdullah - whose country neighbours Iraq - has appealed to the US president to maintain a diplomatic engagement in the Middle East.

He is due to meet Mr Bush later in the week.

Downing Street said Mr Blair had a "very friendly and positive" meeting with King Abdullah.

The two men talked about the ongoing Middle East crisis and about Western fears about Iraq's weapons stockpile.

Mr Blair's spokesman insisted that nothing was imminent as far as possible military against Iraq was concerned.

There is a growing sense of unease about the prospect of military action against Iraq among some Labour backbenchers.

Mr George told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I think the evidence has to be presented that there are weapons of mass destruction in their [Iraq's] possession ... and a willingness, a belief of their willingness to use them.

Tony Benn, speaking for one of the last times in the House of Commons
Benn: Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs need to 'act quickly' to stop an invasion of Iraq
"And I feel it would be really vital in building up a coalition by the United States that they can bring about an improvement in the Middle East.

"If that is not achieved then I feel that all of those countries whose support the US would need will not be there.

"And military action therefore is likely to be undertaken by a handful of countries with a great deal of international opposition.

"I certainly wouldn't want to see that."

Alliance building?

The language coming from both the White House and Downing Street has done nothing to indicate that Mr Blair or Mr Bush would seek UN approval for any action.

Mr George suggested that there may well be grounds for an attack on Iraq even without a new UN sanction but he still argued for the desirability of such a move.

"Before any military action is taken, it is necessary not just to have the military capability, but there needs to be an alliance put in place, some countries in the Middle East, and some within Nato and the rest of the world," he said.

"I think the US has a lot of persuading to do before that coalition is going to be put in place."

Mr Benn has warned that Mr Blair's premiership could go the way of former Conservative prime minister Sir Anthony Eden who quit Number 10 in the 1950s after launching an attack on Egypt during the Suez crisis.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, the former Chesterfield MP argued that while Mr Blair had stated no decision has been taken about a war, US President George Bush expects UK support.

'Act of aggression'

Last week, Mr Blair told a "presidential" style press conference that war against Iraq was not imminent.

But Mr Benn said that now Parliament has adjourned for its long summer recess, MPs will not have a chance to question the government about a potential conflict.

More than 20,000 British troops may support an invasion involving a 200,000-strong US contingent, it is reported.

Nelson Mandela
Could Mandela stop a war against Iraq?
But Mr Benn said such an invasion would contravene the United Nations Charter.

"If Britain joins in, we will be guilty of conducting an act of aggression and committing war crimes against those innocent civilians who are bound to be killed."

Mr Benn also warned that a war against Iraq would inflame the Middle East.

"If people of the stature of Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ted Heath, Jimmy Carter, Mary Robinson, Ahmed Ben Bella, Boutros Boutros-Ghali and others issued a strong statement reaffirming their commitment to the UN Charter, this tragedy might be averted."

Mr Benn recalled in 1956 the demise of Sir Anthony Eden following the Suez crisis, when he proposed sending troops into Egypt.

"He was forced to resign in disgrace," said Mr Benn.


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29 Jul 02 | Middle East
26 Jul 02 | Politics
26 Jul 02 | Politics
25 Jul 02 | Politics
18 Jul 02 | Hardtalk
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