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Thursday, 30 January, 2003, 09:54 GMT
Benn heads for Baghdad
Tony Benn
Mr Benn has told the prime minister about his trip
Tony Benn is to visit Baghdad to "interview" Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in the hope of averting a war with the US, UK and their allies.

The former Labour cabinet minister, who represented Chesterfield until the last general election, said he wanted to "explore the alternatives to war".

I feel I have to go because a lot of people in the world would like to know if there is an alternative to war

Tony Benn
But he warned that Saddam might decide not to even meet with him and that it was important to "hype the whole thing down".

Mr Benn said he had informed Prime Minister Tony Blair of the trip.

"I called Blair as courtesy to let him know I was going but I haven't heard from him," he told the Guardian.

'No Paxman'

Saddam Hussein
Mr Benn is not guaranteed a meeting with Saddam
"All my good friends are telling me I'll be ripped apart and called a stooge of the Iraqis, but I would never forgive myself for not trying to bring back something that could stop this war."

"I feel I have to go because a lot of people in the world would like to know if there is an alternative to war and that is what I am exploring.

"I shall ask relevant questions.

"It is not going to be like a Paxman or Robin Day interview. It is to ask questions and to see what he says."


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