BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
    You are in: UK: Politics  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
 Friday, 20 December, 2002, 15:59 GMT
'Prepare for war', Blair warns troops
Iraqi soldiers walk to a military camp as UN weapons inspectors enter a base
Iraq must co-operate with UN, says Blair
Prime Minister Tony Blair has warned British troops to prepare for a possible war against Iraq if Saddam Hussein fails to comply with weapons inspections.

In a Christmas message to the armed forces, Mr Blair apologised for the "uncertainty" faced by those being mobilised, but stressed this was "inevitable".

We should never undertake conflict unless we have exhausted all other options and possibilities

Tony Blair
He said the UK and US were building up military capacity in the Gulf region and were doing all the necessary preparations in the event of a war.

Mr Blair praised the forces' work across the world and said sending troops into action was one of the "hardest decisions" he had to make.

Biological weapons

Speaking on the British Forces Broadcasting Service, Mr Blair addressed those forces that are being mobilised, saying: "I'm sorry about the uncertainty.

Tony Blair
Blair speaking to troops in Oman in 2001
"I'm afraid it's inevitable though, because at the moment we simply don't know whether Iraq will be found in breach of the United Nations resolution."

He said that if Saddam was found to be in breach of the resolution and refused to co-operate with weapons inspectors, the UK and US would go back to the UN security council.

At that stage, he said, "we will be prepared to use force in order to ensure they are disarmed of all chemical, biological or potentially nuclear weapons".

The message was released as Mr Blair undertook a series of visits in north-east England.

And speaking at a hospital in Hartlepool, the prime minister said the UK would do what it could to help UN's weapons inspectors.

'Sceptical'

He was responding to a call from the UN's chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, for the United States and Britain to hand over intelligence relating to sites where they believe Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.

These are the hardest decisions because you are aware that you are putting people's lives at risk

Tony Blair

But Mr Blair said the emphasis was now on Saddam Hussein to co-operate with the inspectors and work to avoid war.

He said he was "deeply sceptical" about Iraq's response to questions about its weapons programmes.

In his message to troops, Mr Blair said it was vital to ensure that forces were in place in the region "and that we are able to undertake this mission if it falls to us to do so".

Mr Blair said the only circumstances in which Iraq will "co-operate properly" is if the UN resolution calling for disarmament was "backed up by the potential use of force".

Mr Blair said he was "certainly very conscious of the range of work" the government had asked the forces to do, including heading the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and manning Green Goddesses during the firefighters' strike.

"They are amazing and they are a huge asset to any British prime minister."

Last resort

He said he was "absolutely lost in admiration" for what the forces do.

Of the decision to send troops into action, he said: "These are the hardest decisions because you are aware that you are putting people's lives at risk and that's why we should never undertake conflict unless we have exhausted all other options and possibilities."

But he said the war against terrorism, the attacks on Slobodan Milosevic's forces in Kosovo and the threat from Saddam had shown that the capability to use force was key to trying to "make the world a more secure and peaceful place".

"Sometimes the best way of avoiding war is to be prepared for war if you have to have it," Mr Blair said.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Jane Bennett-Powell
"US forces already in the Gulf are to be reinforced"
  Prime Minister Tony Blair
"Sometimes the only way of avoiding war is to be prepared if you have to have it"

Key stories

Analysis

CLICKABLE GUIDE

BBC WORLD SERVICE

AUDIO VIDEO

TALKING POINT
See also:

20 Dec 02 | Politics
20 Dec 02 | Americas
20 Dec 02 | Americas
19 Dec 02 | Politics
19 Dec 02 | Americas
19 Dec 02 | Politics
20 Dec 02 | Americas
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


E-mail this story to a friend



© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes