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Wednesday, 19 February, 2003, 16:07 GMT
Iraq given 'final' warning
Tony Blair graphic
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair says Saddam Hussein is being given his "final opportunity" to disarm peacefully.

He gave the stark message as EU leaders emerged from an emergency summit on the Iraq crisis saying that force should only be used as a "last resort".

This really is the final opportunity to disarm peacefully

Tony Blair
The statement from the 15 leaders, who have been bitterly divided over the issue, warned that weapons inspectors could not continue indefinitely without Baghdad's cooperation.

But while Mr Blair accepted there had been disagreements, every country recognised that Saddam Hussein had not complied with UN Security Council resolution 1441.

"I hope very much those points of agreement, whatever the differences, send a strong message and signal to Iraq: this really is the final opportunity to disarm peacefully," he told reporters at the Brussels summit.

Jacques Chirac
Chirac: No need for a second resolution
"People want this conflict resolved peacefully, but it can only be done on the basis of full and total compliance with the UN and that remains - cooperating with the UN inspectors, not in part, but in full ...

"There is nothing more important for us in Europe at the moment than to send that strong unequivocal signal.

"Iraq will be disarmed of weapons of mass destruction, whether it is done peacefully or by conflict, by military action, is up to Saddam and the Iraqi regime ...

"If Iraq does not do so, then Iraq is in breach [of 1441]."

'Worst solution'

In a veiled warning to France, whose President Jacques Chirac has warned that his country will oppose any early move towards military action against Iraq, Mr Blair insisted: "I hope that all members of the Security Council will take their responsibilities seriously in that regard."

Mr Blair said the issue of how long before a decision to act was taken depended on the time it took to make a judgement about whether Iraq has cooperated with the weapons inspectors.

Mr Chirac insisted his country would oppose any second resolution as unnecessary - a move designed to block any reinforced UN authority for war.

"We consider that war is always, always, the worst solution," he said.

"That is our position, which leads us to conclude that it is not necessary today to have a second resolution, which France could only oppose."

Peaceful path

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw argued that the need for Saddam to give up his weapons of mass destruction is now "more urgent".

Iraq has a "very clear choice", to comply by the "peaceful route or face the consequences", he said.

Earlier, Mr Straw insisted that public opinion over war with Iraq would swing behind the government if there was a second UN resolution.

Speaking after a series of cabinet ministers publicly backed Mr Blair, Mr Straw said that Saturday's anti-war demonstration in London was "unquestionably the largest ... in my lifetime".

A million or more protesters marched through London
The government had to "take account of public opinion", he said.

Mr Blair's spokesman later said it was clear from the report from UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix last Friday that Saddam Hussein was obstructing efforts to disarm him.

Downing Street added the anti-war stance of peace protesters did not mean they had a monopoly over morality.

As foreign ministers met, there was an apparent healing of a rift within the Nato alliance over deploying troops to protect Turkey in the event of a war in Iraq.

Organisers claimed up to two million people took part in Saturday's march on the capital, with police estimates putting the figure "in excess of" 750,000.

But many Labour party members remain unconvinced.

Shaun Ley reports
"John Prescott needed to reassure the doubters"
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
"We have made no decision to go to war"

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