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Blair Answers Criticism on Britain's Stance on Iraq - 2002-12-03

British Prime Minister Tony Blair warns Iraq to comply with United Nations resolutions and destroy its weapons of mass destruction. He says his government has information they exist and he urges U.N. inspectors to find and destroy them. The British leader made the remarks in response to listeners' questions during a special BBC radio 70th anniversary broadcast.

Prime Minister Blair says it is up to the U.N. inspectors to find any toxic weapons and destroy them. And, he warns, if Saddam Hussein refuses to cooperate he must be disarmed by force.

"It's been made clear throughout the purpose is to make sure that any weapons of mass destruction Iraq has they are disarmed of," he said. "If they find no weapons that is another matter but I think it's quite clear according to our information those weapons exist."

Iraq has until December 8 to give the United Nations a declaration on its toxic weapons program.

The British leader was responding to listeners' questions during a special radio show celebrating the BBC's 70th anniversary.

Mr. Blair rejected some listeners' complaints that the United States and Britain have shifted their focus away from the war on terrorism to a conflict with Iraq over weapons of mass destruction.

"We have to deal with both threats. I happen to believe that at some stage they will be directly linked if we don't deal with them," he said. "But in any event, both are threats, both are dangers. So it's not a question of saying we were focused on Afghanistan and terrorism and now we've switched our focus. We're focused on both and we should be focused on both."

A day after Britain released a report on human rights abuses in Iraq, Prime Minister Blair described Saddam Hussein's leadership as uniquely horrible. He added that weapons of mass destruction in the hands of what he called unstable rogue states could lead to toxic weapons in the hands of international terrorists.

Several callers from the Middle East asked why Britain does not push as hard for enforcing U.N. resolutions on Israel as it does on Iraq. Mr. Blair said it is dangerous to equate resolutions on Israel with specific resolutions on Iraq.

He said lack of implementation of U.N. resolutions dealing with problems elsewhere does not mean the U.N. can ignore Iraq. Prime Minister Blair then underlined Britain's commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians as the only solution for the Middle East crisis.