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Friday, 22 November, 2002, 17:36 GMT
Blair holds Iraq inspection talks
Hans Blix with Tony Blair in Downing Street
Blix briefed Blair about his Iraq talks
Saddam Hussein must choose how, not if, he is disarmed of weapons of mass destruction, Tony Blair has told the UN's chief weapons inspector.

Hans Blix met the UK prime minister for 30 minutes of talks in Downing Street on Friday.

UN weapons inspectors are now back in Iraq and Dr Blix briefed Mr Blair about his talks with Iraqi ministers and officials.

Those discussions had been "satisfactory", said Dr Blix, who is on his way to New York.

Inspections process

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The prime minister stressed his support for the work of Dr Blix's inspection team.

"The prime minister also underlined his determination to see the full implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1441.

"This meant the disarmament of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. It was Saddam's choice as to how it was achieved."

From left: Jack Straw, Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac
Jack Straw has been at Nato talks with Blair and Chirac
It is thought the talks focussed on the inspections process, due to begin on Monday, rather than the politics around how military action could be decided.

The meeting comes after Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the UK would prefer a new UN resolution before embarking on any war with Iraq.

With anti-war Labour MPs warning that the Commons could be cheated out of a specific vote on military action, Mr Straw also said Parliament would get the chance "if at all possible" to register its view.

The current UN resolution only says the Iraq issue should go back to the Security Council if Iraq fails to comply with the new weapons inspections regime.

UN discussion

Mr Straw explained to BBC Two's Newsnight what could happen if the weapons inspectors found their path blocked.

"The most likely course of action, if military action is required - which it is not at the moment - is that we go to the Security Council, which is where there would be discussion.

"Our preference has always been for a further resolution for the Security Council, and that would then be put to the House of Commons for further endorsement, just as this original 1441 resolution is being put before the House for endorsement on Monday."

Rebel concerns

Anti-war MPs have branded the motion up for debate on Monday, which expresses support for the resolution, as "bland" and "well-sculpted".

Veteran Labour MP Tam Dalyell is tabling an addition to the motion in an effort to prevent the UK supporting a US-led war without the "explicit authority" of MPs.

In a move to quell such concerns, Mr Straw said: "If it is at all possible to provide for a vote in advance of military action taking place, then we will do so.

"There were circumstances - these arose under the previous administration in 1991 [in the Gulf War] - where because military action has to be taken without giving notice to the other side, we had to wait... for five days after the military action took place."

British interpretation of what constitutes a breach of the UN resolution appears to differ from that offered by some other Security Council members.

Iraq has until 8 December to disclose details of its alleged weapons of mass destruction programmes.

Mr Straw said if Saddam Hussein failed to meet that deadline, it would be a breach of the resolution - a view not shared by the French Government.


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See also:

20 Nov 02 | Middle East
20 Nov 02 | Politics
20 Nov 02 | Politics
19 Nov 02 | Politics
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