At-a-glance: Blair news conference
Tony Blair has held his monthly news conference at 10 Downing Street. Here are the key points, with the most recent first.
Mr Blair ended the news conference at 1310GMT after just over an hour.Sacrificing the trans-atlantic relationship would be "madness", said Mr Blair.The split over the war had thrown up profound questions about the future of the transatlantic relationship, said Mr Blair.Mr Blair said it was possible to find agreement between Europe and the US and insisted that it was not about personal relations.Mr Blair insisted that he listened to opinion within his party whether for or against the war and it was heartening that divisions in Labour matched divisions in the wider country.The alternative to partnership between Europe and America was an "extremely dangerous" polarisation between the powers of the two continents, said Mr Blair.If Europe and the US did fall out it would not be down to Britain which would retain its membership of the EU and its friendship with America, said the prime minister.Mr Blair said that at the end of the war there would have to be a "reckoning" over the relationship between Europe and the US in the wake of divisions over military action.Mr Blair said that council elections in the UK in five weeks time would mainly be about local issues although he conceded opinion about the war might have an impact on Labour's results."There will be a point in time when we are able properly to begin the search for weapons of mass destruction," said Mr Blair.
Every precaution still needed to be taken in case Saddam used weapons of mass destruction in a bid to stave-off the coalition advance, said Mr Blair.The introduction of human, political and religious rights into Iraq would change the minds of many people sceptical about military action, said Mr Blair.A point would come when people in Iraq realised that the regime's grip on power was loosened, said Mr Blair.Mr Blair refused to comment on reports that US intelligence was in contact with key figures in Saddam's regime.Mr Blair said that it didn't surprise him that polls indicated people in the UK appeared to be swinging behind military reaction. Even where there was disagreement there was, he said, understanding of the government's position.Mr Blair said in one way he felt more comfortable with the situation now where removing Saddam was seen as key to disarming Iraq than before when theoretically the dictator could have voluntarily disarmed and stayed in power.Saddam's regime had deprived his people of the normal means of existence and it would be necessary to demonstrate to the Iraqis that they could share in what should be a prosperous country, said the prime minister.The vast bulk of reconstruction after the war would be about rebuilding Iraq after Saddam rather than after the coalition's "carefully targeted" bombing campaign, said Mr Blair.Mr Blair said it was hard to predict what would happen to Saddam but that the important thing was that his regime was removed.Mr Blair conceded that there were many details that must be hammered out to involve the UN in the post-conflict scenario but he insisted consensus would be reached.It was a matter of consensus throughout the international community that the "territorial integrity" of Iraq must be safeguarded and Mr Blair said he was sure that Turkey - which has sent some forces into Northern Iraq - was aware of that.Mr Blair said his visit to the US was not as a result of differences over the role of the UN in post-conflict Iraq but had been scheduled for some time.The reason why the prime minister believed coalition forces would win the war was not just the skill of British armed forces but also because the cause was "just".Mr Blair said that in Basra - where much of the city had lost its water supply - that he hoped the situation could be swiftly resolved and that 40% of the usual supply was now being delivered.Even-handedness of treatment when it came to a Middle East peace process was also key to winning support in that region, said Mr Blair.The prime minister said he took seriously criticism of the campaign in the Arab world but Iraq would ultimately benefit from a new regime.Everything had been done to protect civilians and essential infrastructure but there would be causalities, Mr Blair said.There was the most careful planning and consideration of coalition forces needed to complete the campaign before battle had even commenced, Mr Blair insisted.The Iraqi forces most loyal to Saddam's regime had gained from his rule and had been instruments in the oppression of ordinary people there, said the prime minister.Iraq used to be one of the most sophisticated countries in the Middle East but many of its large cities now appeared like they were in the third world, said the prime minister.Five days into the conflict oil installations in the south were secured and coalition forces were just 50 to 60 miles from Baghdad - the war was taking place exactly as "as we thought it would", said Mr Blair.A UN resolution on humanitarian assistance was needed. UN authority was also needed to give authority to any post-Saddam Iraqi government, the prime minister said.In response to questioning Mr Blair said the purpose of action was to remove the regime and it was therefore important to go to Baghdad but military strategy beyond that would not be revealed.The prime minister said that in addition to meeting US President George W Bush in the US on Wednesday and he would see UN Secretary General Kofi Annan for talks on Thursday.Humanitarian relief was being hampered by the Iraqi military's decision to lay mines to prevent ships from landing, the prime minister said."We are committed to getting the UN oil-for-food programme up and running again as soon as possible," Mr Blair said.Mr Blair said that in addition to pursuing the military campaign the West were intent on bringing humanitarian relief to the people of Iraq.The prime minister said that uprising by an Iraqi people let down in 1991 was unlikely until they were sure US-led forces would finish the job and depose the Iraqi regime.Nobody should be in any doubt resistance will be overcome, said Mr Blair.Resistance was inevitable as there were many people in Iraq who would have "nowhere to go" once Saddam's regime falls.Coalition forces were facing resistance from Republican Guard and were tracking down pro-Saddam elements.The prime minister said that coalition forces were continuing a "two-prong" advance into Iraq.1205GMT Tony Blair begins by reading a short statement to journalists bringing them up-to-date with military action in Iraq.
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