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EDITIONS
Thursday, 30 January, 2003, 23:15 GMT
Blair heads for key Iraq summit
Marines on exercise in Cyprus
Preparations for possible war are gathering pace
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is on his way to his key summit with US President George Bush after telling the world to steel itself for disarming Iraq.

Mr Blair used a stopover visit to Madrid for talks with his Spanish counterpart to appeal for unity between Europe and America.

We have to stick to the strategy we have laid out, which is very clear

Tony Blair
"When we stand together the world is a more secure and more peaceful place," said Mr Blair amid European splits over Iraq.

His latest round of intensive diplomacy comes after it was announced 4,500 more UK reservists are to be called up ahead the possible war, making about 6,000 in total.

The UK is ultimately expected to have a military presence totalling around 30,000 personnel in the Gulf.

Standing together

Mr Blair put on a firm united front with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, with both men stressing Saddam Hussein had a "last chance" to disarm.

They also both linked weapons of mass destruction with the threat of terrorism.

Mr Blair said: "It is only a matter of time before these threats come together in a devastating way."

Tony Blair and Jose Maria Aznar on Thursday evening in Madrid
Blair wants to keep up the pressure as inspections continue

The focus on Iraq did not mean concerns about North Korea's weapons would be dropped, he said, adding that the UN would soon discuss the North Korea situation.

Both men outlined their desire for a second UN resolution on Iraq, with Mr Blair saying such a text had been discussed.

But the UK premier repeated his insistence that an "unreasonable" veto should not be a bar to action.

Earlier, Mr Blair told reporters travelling with him: "We have to stick to the strategy we have laid out, which is very clear.

"There has been plenty of opportunity for Saddam to comply with the weapons inspectors. He has not done so at the moment."

Cooperation

Mr Blair added that he believed the international community would "follow through" if Saddam continues to fail to comply with UN resolutions.

Their comments came as UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix asked for more time, but said there was no evidence of increased cooperation from Iraq.

Iraq insists it is willing to answer any questions the inspectors have.

George Bush
Bush appreciated the European leaders "solidarity" statement
Its Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, has also flatly denied Downing Street suggestions al-Qaeda "operatives" are being sheltered in Iraq with the regime's knowledge.

Anti-war Labour MP George Galloway told BBC One's Question Time that terror groups in London "would be a much greater danger after we have bombed and burned Iraq".

Mr Galloway is due to be joined by celebrities Jeremy Irons, Corin and Vanessa Redgrave and Bianca Jagger at an anti-war news conference on Friday.

United Europe?

In Washington, the Democratic leader in the Senate, Tom Daschle, said he hoped Britain's prime minister will act as a restraining influence on the US president at Friday's meeting.

On Thursday Mr Blair was among eight European leaders who have united to back the US stance on Iraq.

Both France and Germany - dubbed "old Europe" by the American defense secretary - are concerned that UN weapons inspectors are not going to be given enough time in Iraq.

ARTICLE SIGNATORIES
Tony Blair, UK
Silvio Berlusconi, Italy
Jose Manuel Barroso, Portugal
Peter Medgyessy, Hungary
Leszek Miller, Poland
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Denmark
Vaclav Havel, Czech Republic

French President Jacques Chirac, was one of the many leaders to speak to Mr Blair this week.

He told the UK premier on Tuesday that nothing currently justified war, according to a French spokeswoman.

In their newspaper article, the leaders of the UK, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Denmark said the attacks of 11 September on America "were an attack on us all".

They argued this week's UN weapons inspectors' reports confirmed Iraq's practice of "deception, denial and non-compliance".

The article was welcomed by President Bush, who voiced his appreciation for the "statement of solidarity with the United States".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Ben Brown
"Europe's internal divisions are getting wider and deeper"
The BBC's Andrew Marr
"Mr Blair wants at least the impression that George Bush is interested in what the UN says"
Gustavo De Aristegui of Spain's governing party:
"Acting firmly against Iraq is the shortest way to peace"

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See also:

30 Jan 03 | Americas
29 Jan 03 | Politics
29 Jan 03 | Politics
29 Jan 03 | Politics
30 Jan 03 | Politics
30 Jan 03 | Politics
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