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Saturday, 15 February, 2003, 12:38 GMT
Blair speech - key quotes
Prime minister Tony Blair
Mr Blair expressed his determination to tackle the crisis
Here are the key quotes from Tony Blair's speech to the Labour Party's spring conference in Glasgow, in which he said the Iraq crisis must be solved through the United Nations and that weapons inspectors would be given more time in Iraq.

Dr [Hans] Blix [UN chief weapons inspector] reported to the UN yesterday and there will be more time given to inspections. He will report again on 28 February.

To anyone familiar with Saddam's tactics of deception and evasion, there is a weary sense of deja vu.

As ever, at the last minute, concessions are made. And as ever, it is the long finger that is directing them.

The concessions are suspect. Unfortunately the weapons are real.

The time needed is not the time it takes the inspectors to discover the weapons.

They are not a detective agency.

The time is the time necessary to make a judgement - is Saddam prepared to co-operate fully or not?

If he is, the inspectors can take as much time as they want.

I hope, even now, Iraq can be disarmed peacefully, with or without Saddam.

But if we show weakness now, if we allow the plea for more time to become just an excuse for prevarication until the moment for action passes, then it will not only be Saddam who is repeating history.

The menace, and not just from Saddam, will grow; the authority of the UN will be lost; and the conflict when it comes will be more bloody.

I rejoice that we live in a country where peaceful protest is a natural part of our democratic process.

But I ask the marchers to understand this: I do not seek unpopularity as a badge of honour. But sometimes it is the price of leadership and the cost of conviction.

As you watch your TV pictures of the march, ponder this: if there are 500,000 on that march, that is still less than the number of people whose deaths Saddam has been responsible for.

If there are one million, that is still less than the number of people who died in the wars he started.

If the result of peace is Saddam staying in power, not disarmed, then I tell you there are consequences paid in blood for that decision too.

But these victims will never be seen.

They will never feature on our TV screens or inspire millions to take to the streets. But they will exist nonetheless.

Ridding the world of Saddam would be an act of humanity. It is leaving him there that is in truth inhumane.

The moral case against war has a moral answer: it is the moral case for removing Saddam. It is not the reason we act. That must be according to the UN mandate on weapons of mass destruction.

But it is the reason, frankly, why if we do have to act, we should do so with a clear conscience.

Yes, there are consequences of war. If we remove Saddam by force, people will die and some will be innocent. And we must live with the consequences of our actions, even the unintended ones.

But there are also consequences of 'stop the war'.

If I took that advice, and did not insist on disarmament, yes, there would be no war.

But there would still be Saddam. Many of the people marching will say they hate Saddam. But the consequences of taking their advice is that he stays in charge of Iraq, ruling the Iraqi people.

A country that in 1978, the year before he seized power, was richer than Malaysia or Portugal.

A country where today, 135 out of every 1,000 Iraqi children die before the age of five - 70% of these deaths are from diarrhoea and respiratory infections that are easily preventable.

Almost a third of children born in the centre and south of Iraq have chronic malnutrition.

Where 60% of the people depend on food aid. Where half the population of rural areas have no safe water. Where every year and now, as we speak, tens of thousands of political prisoners languish in appalling conditions in Saddam's jails and are routinely executed.

Where in the past 15 years over 150,000 Shia Muslims in southern Iraq and Muslim Kurds in northern Iraq have been butchered; with up to four million Iraqis in exile round the world, including 350,000 now in Britain.

This isn't a regime with weapons of mass destruction that is otherwise benign. This is a regime that contravenes every single principle or value anyone of our politics believes in.

There will be no march for the victims of Saddam, no protests about the thousands of children that die needlessly every year under his rule, no righteous anger over the torture chambers which if he is left in power, will be left in being.

At every stage, we should seek to avoid war. But if the threat cannot be removed peacefully, please let us not fall for the delusion that it can be safely ignored.

If we do not confront these twin menaces of rogue states with weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, they will not disappear.

They will just feed and grow on our weakness.

When people say if you act, you will provoke these people; when they say take a lower profile and these people will leave us alone, remember al-Qaeda attacked the US, not the other way round.

Were the people of Bali in the forefront of the anti-terror campaign? Did Indonesia make itself a target?

The terrorists won't be nice to us if we're nice to them.

When Saddam drew us into the Gulf War, he wasn't provoked. He invaded Kuwait.

No-one seriously believes he is yet co-operating fully. In all honesty, most people don't really believe he ever will.

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See also:

14 Feb 03 | Politics
14 Feb 03 | Politics
12 Feb 03 | Middle East
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