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British PM Rejects Franco-German Plan on Iraq - 2003-02-25

British Prime Minister Tony Blair says the threat of force against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has led to concessions, and such pressure must be maintained. He told the House of Commons on Tuesday it would be "absurd" to give more time to the Iraqi leader, as proposed in the Franco-German plan.

Prime Minister Tony Blair told Britain's House of Commons that President Hussein is being given "one further final chance" to disarm or face war. He says it is not a matter of giving more time to the Iraqi leader. Rather, Mr. Blair says, President Hussein must provide 100 percent active cooperation with 12 years of U.N. resolutions, including the most recent resolution 1441.

Mr. Blair argues that only pressure on Baghdad has yielded cooperation on weapons of mass destruction.

"As the threat level rises, so the concessions are eked out," said Mr. Blair. "At present he is saying he will not destroy the al-Samoud missiles the inspectors have found were in breach of 1441 but he will under pressure claiming that it proves his cooperation. But does any one think he would be making such concessions, indeed that the inspectors would be within 1,000 miles of Baghdad, were it not for the U.S.-U.K. troops massed on his doorstep?"

President Hussein's top scientific adviser said Tuesday that Iraq is still considering a U.N. order to destroy its al-Samoud 2 missiles, despite a report from an American TV network that the president indicated he would keep the weapons.

Mr. Blair told the House of Commons that Britain would not seek an immediate vote on the second resolution submitted to the United Nations on Monday. But he explicitly denounced a rival proposal by France and Germany that would extend U.N. inspections for at least four months.

"If he refuses to cooperate as he is refusing now and we fail to act, what then? Saddam in charge of Iraq. His weapons of mass destruction intact. The will of the international community set at nothing.

"The U.N. tricked again," he continued. "Saddam hugely strengthened and emboldened. Does anyone truly believe that will mean peace? And when we turn to the other threats that confront our world, where will our authority be then?"

Mr. Blair says the path to peace is clear. President Hussein can cooperate fully with the U.N. inspectors and avoid war. He says the Iraqi leader can voluntarily rid the country of weapons of mass destruction, even leave Iraq, but he will not avoid disarmament.