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Friday, 6 September, 2002, 04:34 GMT 05:34 UK
Britain will pay 'blood price' - Blair
Aircraft carrier USS George Washington in the Persian Gulf
US says no decision has been made on attacking Iraq
Britain must be prepared to pay a "blood price" to secure its special relationship with the US, Prime Minister Tony Blair has told the BBC ahead of talks on Iraq with President Bush.

But Britain was not America's puppet, the prime minister said in an interview with the BBC Two programme Hotline to the President, to be screened on Sunday.


They (the US) need to know, `Are you prepared to commit, are you prepared to be there when the shooting starts?'

Tony Blair
UK Prime Minister
Mr Blair - who has promised to publish a dossier of evidence against Iraq in the coming weeks - said the threat of chemical and biological weapons in the hands of "highly unstable states" could not be ignored.

He told the Hotline programme: "In the end, Britain is a sovereign nation. Britain decides its own policy and although I back America I would never back America if I thought they were doing something wrong.

"If I thought that by committing military action in a way that was wrong, I would not support it. But I have never found that and I don't expect to find it in the future."

Prime Minister Tony Blair
Blair denies he is a US puppet
Mr Blair will meet President Bush on Saturday at Camp David, in a meeting that is likely to discuss who could succeed Saddam, but which advisers have said is not "a council of war".

Meanwhile, President Bush is continuing a diplomatic offensive to win support for an attack on Iraq, seeking to persuade key members of the UN Security Council to back his campaign to oust Saddam Hussein.

The president is expected to telephone on Friday the leaders of France, Russia and China, who are all sceptical about the need for military action.

Mr Blair will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow in early October, and although the visit is said to be long-planned, Mr Putin is regarded as a vital player in decisions about how to confront Iraq.

'When shooting starts'

Hotline to the President presenter Michael Cockerell asked Mr Blair whether one of the elements of the UK-US special relationship was whether "Britain is prepared to send troops to commit themselves, to pay the blood price".

An Iraqi army captain reads the news
Iraqis face an uncertain future
Mr Blair replied: "Yes. What is important though is that at moments of crisis they (the USA) don't need to know simply that you are giving general expressions of support and sympathy.

"That is easy, frankly. They need to know, `Are you prepared to commit, are you prepared to be there when the shooting starts?'"

The prime minister added: "We are not at the stage of decision on Iraq, and there are all sorts of different ways in which we might decide to deal with this Iraqi problem in the end.

"But what you cannot do is to say that this issue of weapons of mass destruction, proliferation of chemical weapons, biological weapons and nuclear capability in the hands of highly unstable states ... that these are issues that don't need to be dealt with."


Hotline to the President was screened on BBC Two on Sunday 8 September.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's John Sudworth
"Blair's own backbenchers have little appetite for a war against Iraq"
Labour MP Glenda Jackson
"It would be extremely serious if we slid in to all-out military action against Iraq"

Main stories

Background

Analysis

IN PICTURES

TALKING POINT

FORUM

THE IRAQ DOSSIER
See also:

05 Sep 02 | Middle East
05 Sep 02 | Politics
05 Sep 02 | Politics
05 Sep 02 | Politics
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