Accessibility links

Britain Unconvinced of Need for Iraq War, Admits Blair - 2003-07-30

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has conceded he needs to work harder to convince a skeptical British public that the war in Iraq was justified.

Mr. Blair admitted there remains a gulf of public mistrust about why he sent British troops to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

"People need to know that what we did in Iraq was right and justified," he said. "And that's a case that we have to not just assert but prove over time, both in relation to weapons of mass destruction and in relation to the improvement of Iraq."

The British public was never enamored with the prospect of invading Iraq, and Mr. Blair's popularity has sunk lately amid nagging doubts about his justifications for going to war.

Mr. Blair declined to discuss the recent apparent suicide of British weapons scientist David Kelly.

The British Broadcasting Corporation has named Mr. Kelly as the main source for a controversial news report that accused the Blair government of exaggerating Iraq's weapons threat before the war.

Prime Minister Blair denies the charge, which has led to calls for his resignation. A judicial inquiry into Mr. Kelly's death is set to begin on Friday.

On another Iraq-related topic, Mr. Blair expressed no preference about whether former President Saddam Hussein is killed or captured, as long as he does not remain at large.

"I think that the most important thing is that he ceases to be an obstacle to progress in Iraq," said Mr. Blair. "Because let's be clear, a lot of the problems on services in Iraq, water and electricity, is the problem of sabotage by former Saddam supporters. And so I think, you know, the important thing is that he is removed as an obstacle, one way or another."

Regarding other Middle East developments, Mr. Blair said he has expressed his misgivings to the Israeli leadership over the controversial security barrier being built around the West Bank.

He said Israel and the Palestinian Authority need to make progress on security measures and that would take pressure off the Israeli government to continue building the barrier.