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Thursday, 14 November, 2002, 12:19 GMT
Blair's 'direct plea' to Iraqi people
Saddam Hussein
Saddam has until Friday to accept UN resolution

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is delivering a personal message to the Iraqi people.

He says that Saddam Hussein should comply fully with the United Nations demand for the readmission of weapons inspectors, or face the consequences.

His comments come in an interview with Radio Monte Carlo, which Downing Street says is a much listened to broadcaster into Iraq.

His official spokesman said the prime minister's message was that the current crisis was not about oil or religion but weapons of mass destruction.

Saddam Hussein has to cooperate with the United Nations "but the choice is his - he can disarm peacefully, or be disarmed by force".

Historic relations

Mr Blair says that with its natural resources Iraq should be a prosperous country and that standards of living should be a lot higher.

Those standards of living would be better, said Mr Blair, if money was not being spent on weapons of mass destruction.

The prime minister said that relations between Iraq and the UK used to be "excellent" and he hoped for a return to that.

The prime minister's move was designed to speak directly to the Iraqi people and the wider world and to spell out precisely what the UN position was.

His spokesman also revealed that the government had information showing the turnout in the recent Iraqi election was not the 100% claimed by Saddam, but only 33%.

The turnout was even lower in Saddam's Sunni heartland, he added.

Mr Blair's interview came after Foreign Secretary Jack Straw welcomed Iraq's decision to accept the terms of the new UN Security Council resolution calling on the country to disarm.


If Saddam fails to co-operate fully, then he faces force

Jack Straw
Foreign Secretary

The move could pave the way for the return of weapons inspectors on Monday after a four-year absence.

Mr Straw, who was making a major foreign policy speech on Wednesday evening, said Iraq had taken the "first step" towards disarmament.

"I welcome that. But we must remain vigilant. Iraq's intentions are notoriously changeable," he said.

'Set of traps'

In a statement, the foreign secretary said: "The next step is for Iraq to provide an accurate, full and complete declaration of all aspects of its biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programme by 8 December.

"Let there be no doubt that any failure by Iraq to comply with its obligations will lead to serious consequences."

He said it was only the "credible threat of force" which had "brought Iraq this far".

"The history of UN weapons inspections in Iraq is littered with examples of deceit, evasion, intimidation and harassment.

"I hope even Iraq will recognise the consequences of any repeat," Mr Straw added.

Iraq's acceptance

Iraq had been given until Friday to accept the new UN resolution on disarmament or face "serious consequences".

On Tuesday, Iraq's parliament unanimously rejected the new resolution.

The UN resolution was approved unanimously by the Security Council last Friday, after weeks of wrangling among its members. Even Syria voted in favour.

Iraq's acceptance came after President George W Bush renewed his warning that the US would take military action to disarm Iraq if it refused to comply.


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See also:

12 Nov 02 | Middle East
13 Nov 02 | Middle East
12 Nov 02 | Middle East
09 Nov 02 | Europe
09 Nov 02 | Politics
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