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Britain Proposes Disarmament Tests to Avert Iraq War - 2003-03-12

Britain is proposing that Iraq meet six disarmament tests if it wants to avoid a war. Prime Minister Tony Blair told parliament Wednesday he is working "flat out" for passage of a new U.N. resolution that would include those six conditions. The move comes amid mounting domestic criticism over his hard-line Iraq policy.

The highlight of the six-point British plan would be a requirement that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein go on television and renounce the use of weapons of mass destruction.

It also would require Iraq to account for 10,000 liters of anthrax it is believed to possess, and Iraq would have to let its scientists travel abroad for private interviews with U.N. inspectors.

Prime Minister Blair offered the plan Wednesday to a skeptical parliament, where many members are questioning his tough stance on Iraq.

Mr. Blair said he is working "flat out" to obtain a new U.N. Security Council resolution that would set the final requirements and deadlines for Iraq to meet in order to avoid war.

"I believe that if we set those conditions out clearly, if we back them by the will of a united United Nations, then we have a chance, even now, of averting conflict," the prime minister said. "But what we must show is the determination to act if Saddam will not fully comply."

Mr. Blair also tried to gloss over a statement by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suggesting that the United States could go to war in Iraq without British involvement if Mr. Blair's hands are tied by parliament and public opinion.

Mr. Rumsfeld later issued a clarification, saying he expects Britain will be able to make a significant military contribution in the event of war. Britain currently has 30,000 military personnel deployed around Iraq.

Some anti-war lawmakers say Mr. Rumsfeld has offered Mr. Blair a chance to withdraw the British forces. The prime minister said he would make his decision on going to war based on Britain's interest, not America's.

"Of course it is true that the United States could go alone and of course this country should not take military action unless it is in our interest to do so," he said. "It is the British national interest that must be upheld at all times."

On another point, Mr. Blair rejected suggestions that an attack on Iraq, without specific U.N. approval, would violate international law. He said the existing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 would give the required legal authority to use force.