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Britain Considers Imposing Weapons Inspection Deadline on Iraq - 2002-08-29

Britain says it may propose a deadline for Iraq to allow United Nations weapons inspections to resume. The suggestion comes as anxiety grows in Europe about the possibility of a U.S. military strike against Iraq.

The British Foreign Office says the government will hold talks with the United States and other allies on the idea of imposing a deadline on Iraq to allow U.N. weapons inspectors back in.

The statement was issued Thursday in response to a recommendation in June by parliament's foreign affairs committee that the government seek a deadline on Iraq.

The British government says it still believes Iraq ought to immediately comply with all U.N. Security Council resolutions, including those on arms inspections.

Still, the statement says, the call for a deadline will be given further consideration.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein could stave off an American-led military attack if he allows weapons inspections to resume without conditions.

The U.N. pulled its inspectors out of Iraq in 1998 ahead of U.S. and British air strikes. Iraq has been under U.N. sanctions since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

President Bush has advocated what he calls "regime change" in Iraq, saying Saddam Hussein has not abandoned his quest for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

The British statement says Iraq would be a better place without Saddam Hussein. It says Britain remains determined to deal with the threat posed by Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction.

The British proposal of a new deadline comes as some European leaders have grown increasingly troubled by the war rhetoric emanating from Washington.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair can expect a debate on what to do about Iraq when his Labor party holds its annual conference next month. British labor leaders and senior clergymen have spoken out against military action against Iraq, as have members of parliament from across the political spectrum.