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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 2 April, 2003, 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK
Verdict: Prime minister's questions


BBC News Online political correspondent Nick Assinder gives his instant verdict as Tony Blair faced questions from MPs at prime minister's question time in the House of Commons.

Iain Duncan Smith asked the question, and Charles Kennedy repeated it - twice.

Will the post-war administration in Iraq be run by the US or the UN?

No, declared Tony Blair, it will be run by the Iraqi people - as soon as possible.

And it is that "as soon as possible" that is causing all the trouble.

There is a creeping suspicion that President Bush is planning a US led administration with only UN acknowledgement, and he probably feels he can even live without that.

And the fact that the prime minister will only ever talk about UN "endorsing" any post-war government is not calming those fears.

What is absolutely clear is that in the days immediately after the conflict the coalition will run the country. And that means the US.

But the prime minister insisted that phase should not last long and that everyone agreed the Iraqis would have to take over the reins "as soon as possible." Those words again.

He even got very angry indeed when SNP leader Alex Salmond asked the same question.

But when the dust settled and the anger - synthetic or otherwise - had abated it was patently obvious he had not answered the question.

Indeed he had used all his barrister's training to avoid answering it.

So no one knows how long "as soon as possible" is, or who will be in the driving seat during that period.

And the reason no one knows is because there is a major debate - and that probably means another huge bust up - between the US, the UK and the EU over precisely that.

The critics, of course, fear they already know exactly who is going to win that one.




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