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Last Updated:  Thursday, 6 March, 2003, 15:11 GMT
Blair seeks to win MTV crowd

By Nick Assinder
BBC News Online political correspondent

They brought you Beavis and Butthead, The Osbournes and Jackass.

Now MTV has delighted the world with 60 minutes with the former leader of Ugly Rumours.

The channel gave 40 young people from 24 countries the chance to cross examine Tony Blair about his plans to bomb Saddam Hussein.

But anyone expecting this to have been politics-lite, or that the prime minister would get an easy time, will be severely disappointed when they watch the broadcast on Friday evening in Europe.

The audience gave him as hard a time as any he has so far faced on this crisis.

And it was abundantly clear just how deeply concerned they were about the need for international solidarity towards Saddam - and the wider consequences of war in the region.


The session came after an anti-war demonstration in Westminster from secondary school pupils, and pop stars like George Michael have opposed war.

The prime minister was accused of showing "absolute disdain" for public opinion, of threatening to make terrorism worse and of failing to provide sufficient evidence to support action against Iraq.

School pupils demonstrated outside Downing Street
There were some who supported his actions, but it is probably fair to say the majority were against military action, particularly unilateral action.

The prime minister repeated his arguments as powerfully as he has done in the past.

He denied there was a rush to war, that the issue was about oil or that he was flouting international opinion.

But he did make it pretty plain that, even if a few countries opposed a second UN resolution, he would still be ready to take military action against Saddam.

Not working

He agreed that he would ideally like to see Saddam hauled before an international court for his crimes.

But he also said he was prepared to allow the dictator to escape into exile if that was the price of peace.

The performance was just the latest in a series of attempts by the prime minister to win over a sceptical public.

But it also served to remind those who needed it that the world's young people are as well informed, concerned and politically aware as any generation before them.

And it was one of the audience who probably hit the nail on the head when the prime minister told him he was eager to have a dialogue with people to explain his views.

"It is not really working though, is it."

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