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Will to Disarm Saddam Not Weakened, says Blair - 2003-02-21

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Friday the will of the international community to disarm Saddam Hussein has not weakened. The British and Italian prime ministers insisted that all efforts are being made to resolve the standoff with Iraq by peaceful means and through the United Nations. Tony Blair said no one wants war, but there is a moral dimension to take into account. "If we fail to disarm Saddam peacefully, then where does it leave the authority of the United Nations," he said. "And if we leave Saddam in charge of Iraq, with his weapons of mass destruction, where does it leave the Iraqi people, who are the principal victims of Saddam."

War with Iraq cannot be avoided, Mr. Blair said, unless Saddam Hussein "chooses the route of peaceful disarmament." And he said the international community is still waiting for a definitive sign from Iraq that it is prepared to do this.

Mr. Blair said Saddam Hussein would ultimately be the one who determines the outcome of the current crisis with Iraq. "He knows what he has to do, and he has the capability to do it," said Tony Blair. "The question is, does he have the will."

The two leaders also spoke of their concern about possible links between Iraq and the al-Qaida terror network. Mr. Blair said it is not worth risking the possibility that the terror network may get hold of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. "If we don't find out where these weapons of mass destruction that Saddam undoubtedly had, if we don't find out where those are and destroy them, I can only warn people of the consequences of the combination of unstable states, deeply hostile to us, and that combination with international terrorism," he added.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Italian intelligence had indicated that al-Qaida was preparing to launch another attack with much worse consequences than the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

The British prime minister is scheduled to meet the pope at the Vatican on Saturday morning.