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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 15:44 GMT 16:44 UK
Blair outlines Iraq evidence
Tony Blair and Saddam Hussein
Prime Minister Tony Blair has warned of the urgent need to act after the publication of the UK's long awaited dossier of evidence against Iraq.

Mr Blair said the 50-page report, based on intelligence and United Nations inspectors' reports, showed Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programme was "active, detailed and growing".

The dossier claims Iraq has:

  • Continued to produce chemical and biological agents.

  • Drawn up military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons.

  • Tried to acquire from Africa material and technology for the production of nuclear weapons.

  • Illegally retained up to 20 al-Hussein missiles with a range of 650km, capable of carrying chemical or biological warheads.

  • Begun developing ballistic missiles with a range of more than 1,000km.

  • Learnt how to conceal equipment and documentation from weapons inspectors

Mr Blair told an emergency session of the UK Parliament: "Our case is simply this - not that we take military action come what may, but that the case for ensuring Iraqi disarmament as the UN has stipulated is overwhelming.

"I defy anyone on the basis of this evidence to say that is an unreasonable demand for the international community to make."

The Iraqi Culture Minister, Yousif Hummadi, told a news conference in Baghdad that the dossier was "baseless".

Mr Hummadi accused Mr Blair of taking part in what he called a Zionist campaign against Iraq.

Open in new window : Dossier at-a-glance
Iraq and weapons of mass destruction

The dossier is part of the build-up of pressure which includes a new United Nations resolution "within days" calling for Iraq to re-admit weapons inspectors and abandon any weapons of mass destruction.

I believe this issue to be a current and serious threat to the UK national interest

Tony Blair

US President George Bush has said it would be a resolution "to disarm Saddam Hussein... before he threatens civilisation".

Writing in the dossier's foreword, Mr Blair says: "It is unprecedented for the government to publish this kind of document.

"But in the light of the debate about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) I wanted to share with the British public the reasons why I believe this issue to be a current and serious threat to the UK national interest."

He says he has become "increasingly alarmed" in recent months by the evidence from inside Iraq that "Saddam Hussein is continuing to develop WMD, and with them the ability to inflict real damage upon the region and the stability of the world".

Mr Blair claims that, despite sanctions, the "policy of containment" employed towards Iraq has not worked.

He said weapons inspectors must be allowed back in to Iraq "to do their job properly" and if Saddam refuses, the international community "will have to act".

The dossier's publication came as former US presidential candidate Al Gore accused President Bush of squandering the good will of the world towards America.

UK debate

The UK Parliament's emergency one day session will not include a vote on a specific anti-war motion after rebel Labour MPs' were denied their request.


The (UN weapons) inspectors are the only people who can be trusted with this information - not people with a propaganda interest in drawing up dossiers

George Galloway. Labour MP
They are still expected to record opposition to military action without UN backing in a procedural vote on the adjournment of the House.

In a passionate attack on those who supported military action, Labour's George Galloway said: "The (UN weapons) inspectors are the only people who can be trusted with this information - not people with a propaganda interest in drawing up dossiers."

Labour former cabinet minister Chris Smith also urged the government not to act without UN backing.


Iraqi missile ranges according to Blair's dossier:
1. Al-Samoud - 150 km
2. Ababil - 150 km
3. Al Hussein - 650km
4. Al Abbas - 900km *
5. Planned MRBM - 1,200 km *
* Project active pre-Gulf War; could be retrieved.

Mr Blair's statement was welcomed by Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, who told MPs Saddam Hussein "has had ten years of second chances. Now surely is the time to act".

But Charles Kennedy, for the Liberal Democrats, said the emphasis should be on getting UN weapons inspectors back into Iraq.

An ICM poll for Tuesday's Guardian newspaper suggests 37% of Britons would support military action, with 46% against and 18% undecided.

Open in new window : Who backs war?
Where key nations stand on Iraq

Iraq is likely to be high on the agenda when Mr Blair meets German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder later on Tuesday.

It was a major issue in the German election after the chancellor voiced emphatic opposition to military action - upsetting US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who said it had "poisoned" relations between the two countries.

Tony Blair is due to visit Moscow in October to try to persuade President Vladimir Putin to support the American and British position on Iraq.


 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's David Shukman
"The main conclusions are no great surprise"
The BBC's Mark Mardell
"The government is determined to keep the heat turned up"
Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram
"What I have seen is evidence that Saddam Hussein is continuing to develop weapons of mass destruction"
Lib Dem Chairman Mark Oaten
"We cannot rush into military action"

Key stories

Analysis

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TALKING POINT
See also:

24 Sep 02 | Middle East
24 Sep 02 | Politics
23 Sep 02 | Panorama
24 Sep 02 | Americas
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