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Wednesday, 2 October, 2002, 17:42 GMT 18:42 UK
'Call Saddam's bluff' urges Clinton
Bill Clinton at the Labour conference
Bill Clinton talking at the Labour conference in Blackpool
Former US President Bill Clinton has stressed the need to strengthen the United Nations and to "call Saddam Hussein's bluff" with tough new inspections demands.

In a speech lavishing praise on Tony Blair's stance on Iraq he told Labour members in Blackpool that although the Iraqi leader posed a real threat to the world, using force against him should be a last resort.

Saddam Hussein as usual is bobbing and weaving - we should call his bluff

Bill Clinton
The prime minister is set to underline the message again when he gives his monthly press conference from Blackpool on Thursday, the final day of Labour's conference.

President Clinton's call on Iraq came after UK foreign secretary Jack Straw told BBC News Online that the UK would press for "much tougher" weapons inspections regulations than the existing "defective" ones.

Both the UK and the US have said they will oppose the resumption of inspection until the UN Security Council lays down some tougher rules - including the threat of military action if the inspectors are unable to do their jobs.

Russia on the other hand has welcomed the deal, which it says paves the way for the inspectors' return.

Iraq's deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz responded to the US reaction by saying they were afraid of letting inspectors in because they knew they would find no illegal weapons.

Ovation for Clinton

The excitement surrounding Mr Clinton's visit to Blackpool was shown by a huge standing ovation from delegates before Tony Blair even had the chance to introduce his close political and personal friend.

As well as calling for a more integrated world and urging support for Mr Blair's Iraq policies, Mr Clinton extolled the virtues of the Blairite "Third Way" philosophy.

And he said Northern Ireland's peace moves had brought peace to people across the world.

But it was the passages he devoted to the Iraq crisis that attracted the most attention.

Cherie Blair with actor Kevin Spacey
Tony Blair's wife Cherie with actor Kevin Spacey
The UN had to insist on unrestricted access for weapons inspectors, argued Mr Clinton on the day the US and UK rejected Iraq's latest inspections offer.

"Saddam Hussein as usual is bobbing and weaving," he said. "We should call his bluff.

"The UN should call for a complete and unrestricted set of inspections with a new resolution.

"If the inspections go forward, and I hope they will, perhaps we can avoid a conflict."

Inspections had done more to tackle the build-up of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq than the Gulf War, he said.

"I believe we have to stay at this business until we get all those biological and chemical weapons out of there."

'Becoming institutions'

The west was not blameless in the problems affecting the Iraqi people, he argued, saying there had been "hardly a peep" over the gassing of the Kurds.

In a speech dominated by an internationalist message, Mr Clinton argued for action to be taken through the UN.

The UN, however, was still "becoming", he said.

Former President Bill Clinton
Blair praised Clinton's political skills
"We've only had 10 years to make it work" and there were still people in the UN who voted according to the sort of narrow national self-interests seen in the Cold War.

The UK and US had acted over Kosovo despite Russia vetoeing a UN resolution because of its historic links with the Serbs, he recalled.

Mr Clinton said that the European Union was also a "becoming" institution, saying that both the UN and the EU would be different in nature in five to ten years.

He told delegates about his recent visit to Africa, using it to illustrate the interdependent nature of the world.

The number one test for people of all nations was to move from an interdependent world to global community with shared values, he argued.

Burger bar

Like Mr Blair, a disciple of the Third Way, the ex-president said the best thing going for the philosophy was that it worked.

The former president had arrived in Blackpool on Tuesday along with film star Kevin Spacey.

At a reception hosted by Mr Blair the Oscar winner did a series of impersonations of political figures for guests at the party.

Together with Downing Street communications director Alastair Campbell, the pair paid a visit to a McDonalds restaurant where they ate burgers and glad-handed surprised diners.

The BBC's Andrew Marr
"It's the political equivalent of an ageing rock star on tour"
Bill Clinton
"Saddam Hussein as usual is bobbing and weaving - we should call his bluff"

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See also:

02 Oct 02 | Americas
02 Oct 02 | Politics
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