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Thursday, 3 October, 2002, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
Blair demands tough new Iraq deal
Tony Blair has said a tough new United Nations resolution is needed before weapons inspectors return to Iraq.

The UK prime minister said the current weapons inspections regime had not been effective enough to get the job done.

He said inspectors must have access to presidential palaces - saying it was not good enough for inspectors to have access to 99% of Iraq if the weapons of mass destruction were in the other 1%.


The only way to avoid military action is for him to comply with the international community's demands

Tony Blair
"The harder the international community is at the moment, the clearer the message we send, the greater the likelihood there is of avoiding conflict," Mr Blair told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

His comments came as the US prepared to use a meeting of the UN Security Council to reinforce its view that inspectors should not return without a new resolution calling for unrestricted access to sites, backed up with the threat of force.

The US stance, opposed by three other key Security Council members - Russia, China and France - came after UN weapons inspectors reached agreement with Iraq to return to work there.

'Calling his bluff'

The prime minister was speaking in Blackpool on the last day of his Labour Party's annual conference - where he reinforced his message on Iraq at his monthly televised news conference.

Talks at the Security Council were at an "important stage", said Mr Blair, who was optimistic a strong resolution could be agreed.

He insisted that toppling Saddam Hussein was not his aim in the crisis, but said such a result would be "fantastic... not least for the Iraqi people".

Hans Blix
Hans Blix is to brief the UN Security Council on Thursday
Instead, the aim was to disarm the Iraqi leader of his weapons of mass destruction, he said, stressing that Saddam Hussein could remain in power with a conventional army and conventional weapons.

But to achieve this, tougher rules were needed because, Mr Blair told Today, the current weapons inspection rules were "defective".

"It is necessary to have a tough resolution because what is absolutely clear is that the previous regime was not enough to get the job done," he said.

Saddam Hussein had "played about" for 10 years.

'Conflict not certain'

Military action was not inevitable, insisted Mr Blair, continuing: "But the only way to avoid military action is for him to comply with the international community's demands."

Mr Blair said most of the public were unsure there was an immediate cause for war because Iraq had not invaded another country.

But they also believed Saddam Hussein had to comply with UN demands.

The Iraqi crisis returned to the top of the agenda at the conference on Wednesday when former US President Bill Clinton urged the international community to "call Saddam's bluff".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Andrew Marr
"Tony Blair knows that war, if things go wrong, could rip his party in two"
The BBC's Bridget Kendall reports New York
"It is far too soon to say if Britain and the US will get what they want"
Prime Minister Tony Blair
"If Saddam receives mixed messages taking military action will be more likely"

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03 Oct 02 | Politics
03 Oct 02 | Education
02 Oct 02 | Americas
03 Oct 02 | Americas
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