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EDITIONS
Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 04:38 GMT
Blair puts 'moral' case for war
Iraqi soldier in front of a Saddam Hussein poster
The prospect of war with Iraq is looming
Prime Minister Tony Blair has outlined the "moral" case for war against Saddam Hussein, saying the alternative is sanctions that could result in the deaths of thousands of Iraqis.

Mr Blair said he believed a second UN resolution was still possible, but reiterated that action against Saddam would be taken without one if it was necessary.

We have had our political leaders in open disarray

General Sir Michael Rose
Former UN commander

An opinion poll for the BBC One's Iraq: Britain Decides day suggested less than one in 10 people would back a war with Iraq without a second UN resolution.

The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, predicted that if military action did become necessary "within the framework of the mandate the UN has already laid down, there will be public backing for that".

He added that the credibility of the UN would be put at risk if France and Germany failed to support a second resolution on Iraq.

Falklands veteran Simon Weston
Simon Weston says people do not know who to believe
"So far, when it's come to the crunch, France and Germany have supported [first UN resolution] 1441," he said during a special television debate on the issue.

"I hope that France and Germany support any further resolution if that's necessary. But if they don't, what they're putting at risk is the whole authority of the UN."

On the same programme, Labour MP Alice Mahon warned Mr Blair's Iraq stance meant the Labour party's membership was "haemorrhaging" by the day.

"The government is in danger of breaking up one of the great parties in this country," she said.

Earlier, the government faced strong criticism of its policy on Iraq at a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Nineteen out of 26 Labour MPs who spoke were critical of the government's position.

Tony Blair was also questioned by anti-war Labour MPs during prime minister's questions.

Top priority?

In the TV debate, Falklands veteran Simon Weston argued the public did not know who to believe in the Iraq crisis.

Mr Weston said: "We've listened to politicians with so many different agendas, spin and bluff and throwing smoke in the air and I have to say even lies...

Tony Blair
Blair has been warned he is splitting Labour
"So often that we are not sure what we are actually listening to now."

There was criticism too from General Sir Michael Rose, former UN commander in Bosnia, who stressed military commanders needed clarity from their political masters.

"So far, we have had a shifting set of arguments, we have had our political leaders in open disarray," he added.

Sir Michael questioned whether action in Iraq could affect what he saw as the top priority - the campaign against international terrorism.

Earlier, Mr Blair told MPs during prime minister's question time: "Before we take the decision to go to war, the morality of that should weigh heavily on our conscience because innocent people, as well as the guilty, die in a war."

He added: "But the alternative is to carry on with a sanctions regime which, because of the way Saddam Hussein implements it, leads to thousands of people dying needlessly in Iraq every year."

Amid French and German calls for weapons inspectors to have more time, Mr Blair warned of the dangers of allowing inspections to get sucked back into a game of "hide and seek" for "months and years".

'Enemies' together

In a separate move, Gordon Brown announced on Wednesday that he was allocating a further 750m to help meet the costs of potential military action against Iraq.

Before we take the decision to go to war, the morality of that should weigh heavily on our conscience because innocent people, as well as the guilty, die in a war

Tony Blair
The chancellor had already set aside 1bn for the Ministry of Defence in his pre-Budget report last year.

Earlier, Mr Blair's official spokesman said a tape-recorded message from Osama Bin Laden showed his readiness "to find common cause with Iraq... to work on the notion that my enemy's enemy is my friend".

In the BBC poll, 45% of people questioned said the UK should play no part in a war on Iraq - whatever the UN decides.

Three out of every five Britons think the UK and US Governments have failed to prove their case that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, the research indicates.

When the survey asked why Britain and America wanted to attack Iraq, the most popular response was: "To secure oil supplies."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Laura Trevelyan
"There is deep unease in the world outside Westminister about the conflict with Iraq"

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See also:

12 Feb 03 | Middle East
12 Feb 03 | Politics
11 Feb 03 | Talking Point
12 Feb 03 | Middle East
12 Feb 03 | Politics
12 Feb 03 | Business
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