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Blair Urges Britons to Unite in Support of Troops - 2003-03-21


British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he has ordered British troops to fight for the overthrow of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. His remarks in a broadcast statement were his first public comments on the war.

Prime Minister Blair delivered a somber, five-minute broadcast address late Thursday to formally tell his countrymen Britain was at war.

"Tonight, British servicemen and women are engaged from air, land and sea," he said. "Their mission: to remove Saddam Hussein from power and disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction."

As British anti-war protestors mobilize for more demonstrations, Mr. Blair acknowledged the war is controversial.

"I know this course of action has produced deep division of opinion within our country," he said. "But I know also the British people will now be united in sending our armed forces our thoughts and prayers."

The prime minister also tried to reassure the Iraqi people that they are not the target of the campaign. "I hope the Iraqi people hear this message. We are with you. Our enemy is not you, but your barbarous rulers," he said.

Mr. Blair stressed Britain is totally committed to post-war humanitarian relief, and will make sure Iraqi oil revenues go into a United Nations trust fund to benefit Iraq, and no one else.

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