Archive for Sunday, April 7, 2002

Blair says Saddam must allow weapons inspection back in ‘anytime, any place’ that is demanded

April 7, 2002

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— British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in the strongest signal yet he would back U.S. military action against Iraq, said Sunday that Saddam Hussein must allow weapons inspectors into his country "anytime, any place that the international community demands."

Blair, who ended a weekend of talks with President Bush at the president's nearby ranch, did not specifically threaten military action against Iraq. But he urged the international community to be ready to act - with arms, if necessary - against terrorism or weapons of mass destruction.

"If necessary, the action should be military and again, if necessary and justified, it should involve regime change," Blair said in remarks prepared for delivery at the presidential library of Bush's father, the 41st president.

Bush has embraced U.S. policy initiated under former President Clinton that calls for Saddam's ouster. Bush calls the Iraqi leader a threat to the world, believing Iraq produces weapons of mass destruction that could be used by Saddam's terrorist allies.

The president repeatedly says all options are on the table for dealing with Saddam, a characterization that aides say includes possible military action.

In his speech, Blair quickly followed his call for possible military action against terrorists with a warning to Saddam: "He has to let the inspectors back in - anyone, anytime, any place that the international community demands."

Blair is under pressure from within his own Labor Party to distance himself from Bush's aggressive approach to fighting terrorism, particularly any plans the United States might have to attack Iraq.

"As for Iraq, I know some fear precipitate action. They needn't. We will proceed, as we did after Sept. 11, in a calm, measured, sensible but firm way," Blair said.

"But leaving Iraq to develop weapons of mass destruction ... refusing still to allow weapons inspectors back to do their work properly, is not an option," he said.

"The regime of Saddam is detestable, brutal," he said, echoing the kind of language Bush uses to describe Saddam.

Bush's father pushed Iraq out of Kuwait, but was criticized for stopping short of ousting Saddam.

Blair spent parts of three days on Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch to discuss Iraq and the mounting crisis in the Middle East. Israel's military moves on the West Bank and Palestinian suicide bombings have threatened Bush's plans to build a coalition of moderate Arab leaders to go after Saddam.

On the Middle East, Blair repeated his call for a cease-fire. Both he and Bush urged Israel on Saturday to stop its incursions without delay, but Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon rebuffed the call.

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