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Blair: 'No Question' Iraq Has Failed to Cooperate


British Prime Minister Tony Blair said there is no question that Iraq has failed to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors. Because of this, he says, the final phase of the showdown over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction has begun.

The prime minister came to parliament to brief lawmakers on his meeting with President Bush last Friday in Washington.

He said the evidence from U.N. weapons inspectors is mounting that Iraq has not accounted for vast stores of prohibited weapons, including nerve gas, biological agents, and warheads.

Mr. Blair said the 12-year effort to get Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to give up his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction is entering, what he called, "the final phase."

"Eight-weeks have now passed since Saddam was given his final chance. Six hundred weeks have passed since he was given his first chance. The evidence of cooperation withheld is unmistakable," Mr. Blair said.

The British prime minister said he and President Bush discussed the desirability of getting the U.N. Security Council to pass another resolution that could authorize military force if the U.N. inspectors continue to report problems.

"President Bush and I agreed that we should seek maximum support for such a resolution, provided as ever, that seeking such a resolution is a way of resolving the issue, not delaying or avoiding dealing with it at all," Mr. Blair said.

He spoke a day ahead of a summit he is going to have with French President Jacques Chirac, who is resisting the idea of using military force against Iraq at this time. France holds veto power on the Security Council.

Meanwhile, the British defense ministry said a Royal Air Force deployment to the Persian Gulf region will be announced soon. British media say at least 60 aircraft could be involved.

Britain is sending 35,000 troops to the area, along with its biggest naval task force in 20 years.

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