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Monday, 2 September, 2002, 08:23 GMT 09:23 UK
Pressure on Blair to explain Iraq plans
UN inspectors destroy an Iraqi  building
Inspectors destroyed Iraqi weapons on previous visits
The European Union has called on Iraq to allow back UN weapons inspectors.

The EU has also made it clear it wants differences with Iraq to be resolved through diplomacy rather than war.

Prime Minister Tony Blair is coming under growing pressure to give a clear explanation of whether and why Britain would back an attack on Iraq by the United States.

There has been no let up in demands from the left and the right but Mr Blair, on a three-day visit to Africa, says he will only answer further questions when he returns to the UK on Tuesday.

Everything has to be done to avoid war

Tam Dalyell, Labour MP
The Conservative chairman, Theresa May, has reinforced warnings from party leader Iain Duncan Smith that Saddam Hussein had the motive and probably the ability to launch a missile attack against Britain.

She promised the Conservatives were ready to back an American-led offensive to destroy any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

"He knows Iraq poses a clear and growing danger to Britain," she told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme.

"If the prime minister believes it is necessary to take action against Iraq to enforce the UN resolutions and eliminate weapons of mass destruction then we will give him that backing."

Restraining influence

Meanwhile, union leaders and left-wing Labour MPs have become equally concerned by the government's refusal to publish a detailed assessment of the risks posed by Saddam Hussein.

Veteran Labour MP Tam Dalyell said Parliament should be recalled to discuss the issue, when Mr Blair returns to the UK.

"Everything has to be done to avoid war," Mr Dalyell told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"The House of Commons should be able to registers a yes or no as soon as possible."

He said it was important to "let the Americans know what the British attitude is" before "events take over".

Roger Lyons, joint general secretary of trade union Amicus, said he would be putting forward draft motion to the TUC executive calling on the government to act as a restraining influence on the US.

Evidence needed

The Transport Workers' leader, Bill Morris, said he hoped Mr Blair will explain his unwavering support for President George Bush, otherwise he says the prime minister could expect some blunt advice at the forthcoming TUC and Labour conferences.

Tony Blair on a visit to the US
Blair said doing nothing was not an option
Baroness Williams, the Liberal Democrats' leader in the Lords, told the BBC's Breakfast with Frost that even US Secretary of State Colin Powell had admitted the Bush administration had yet to make the case for military action.

She said it was necessary to have "overwhelming evidence" before proposing war.

In a poll in the Daily Mirror newspaper on Monday, 71% of respondents were against UK forces taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq.

US visit

Mr Blair has said the world could not stand by while Iraq was in "flagrant breach" of United Nations resolutions which demand UN inspectors be allowed into the country to assess whether he has weapons of mass destruction.

He insisted no decisions had been taken but added: "Doing nothing about Iraq's breach of these UN resolutions is not an option."

Iraqi vice president, Taha Yassin Ramadan
Iraqi vice president is sending emissaries to Europe
It has been confirmed that Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon will spend six days in the United States later this month and will be briefed by the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

Mr Hoon is regarded as one of the most hawkish ministers in the cabinet and after being told of America's plans he is expected to outline options for possible British military assistance.

Iraq, meanwhile is preparing to send emissaries to Europe to rally support against the threat of an American attack.

The European Union has made it clear it wants differences with Iraq to be resolved through diplomacy rather than war and it has called on Iraq to re-admit UN weapons inspectors.

Iraq 'ready to talk'

Baghdad's representative in the UK, Dr Mudaffah Amin, told Today Iraq was ready to allow weapons inspectors back in.

"Give us a chance before declaring war and devastating the country.

"Encourage the UN and strengthen the hand of (UN Secretary General) Kofi Annan for a peaceful solution."

But, he added, there was "no sense" in allowing inspectors back in if the country was going to be bombed anyway.

Latest opinion polls in the US suggest public support for an invasion of Iraq is declining, with 51% of respondents in a Time magazine/CNN poll supporting military action, compared with 73% last December.

The BBC's Mark Mardell
"The Conservatives think Tony Blair is dithering"

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