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Britiain's PM Responds to Parliament Questions on Iraq - 2003-01-22


Britain says Iraq must stop playing hide and seek with U.N. weapons inspectors and give active cooperation to avoid a possible war. The issue came up during Prime Minister Tony Blair's weekly appearance to take questions in parliament.

Prime Minister Blair was asked if he favors giving more time to U.N. weapons inspectors, if they request it when they report next Monday to the Security Council on the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Mr. Blair said the pace of the inspections depends to a large degree on the level of cooperation the inspectors get from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "It is important that the weapons inspectors are able to do their job and have the time to do their job. However, let us be clear about what their job is. Their job is not to play an elaborate game of hide-and-seek with Saddam, where they go in and try to find the weapons and he tries to hide them," Mr. Blair said.

He said Saddam Hussein is obligated under U.N. resolutions to give his full and active support to the inspectors. "His duty has two parts to it. One is to allow the inspectors access to any part of Iraq and the sites. The other is to cooperate by telling the truth about what he has and cooperating with the inspectors in destroying those weapons," Mr. Blair explained.

In response to another question, Mr. Blair defended the billions of dollars it may cost Britain if war breaks out with Iraq, saying the cost would have to be paid sooner or later anyway.

"In relation to Iraq, we will spend what is necessary to make sure that the threat to the security of the world posed by weapons of mass destruction is dealt with. If we do not deal with the threat of Saddam Hussein, if we allow him to develop weapons of mass destruction, if as he has done many times before he then threatens his own neighbors, do we not think in those circumstances we would also be sucked into a conflict, but this time of a far worse and more expensive nature," he said.

As Mr. Blair spoke, his foreign secretary, Jack Straw, was preparing to fly to Washington for talks with Secretary of State Colin Powell on Iraq and other international issues.

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