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Britain to Release Report on Iraqi Weapons Plans - 2002-09-03

British Prime Minister Tony Blair says his government will soon present evidence that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein continues to pursue weapons of mass destruction. Questions about Iraq dominated a news conference Mr. Blair held Tuesday.

Prime Minister Blair says he plans to release a dossier on Iraq's weapons program within a few weeks. He says the evidence will buttress his argument that Saddam Hussein poses a threat to the Middle East and the world.

Mr. Blair says Britain has been holding constant discussions with the United States on what to do about Iraq. He says no decisions have been reached, but the threat cannot be ignored. "Where we are in absolute agreement is that Iraq poses a real and a unique threat to the security of the region and the rest of the world that Saddam Hussein is continuing in his efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction - that means biological, chemical and nuclear weapons capability - that he is in breach of United Nations resolutions, and that when confronted with this reality, we have to face up to it and to deal with it," said Mr. Blair.

Mr. Blair rejected criticism that he is following Washington's lead out of blind loyalty. "This isn't just an issue for the United States," he emphasized. "It is an issue for Britain. It is an issue for the wider world. America shouldn't have to face this issue alone. We should face it together."

When asked about President Bush's call for "regime change" in Iraq, Mr. Blair came close to endorsing the idea. "The issue is making sure it's not a threat. And either the regime starts to function in an entirely different way, and there hasn't been much sign of that, or the regime has to change," he said. "And that's the choice, very simply."

Mr. Blair hinted that the dossier Britain is preparing could give details on what is known about Iraq's quest to acquire nuclear weapons. "I believe that there is evidence that they will acquire nuclear weapons capability if they possibly can," said the British leader. "But I don't think we should be in any doubt about the nature of this regime. They will acquire whatever weapons they possibly can."

Mr. Blair spoke with reporters after touring his constituency in Sedgefield, in northern England. There is growing unease within Mr. Blair's Labor Party about military action in Iraq, and the issue could dominate the party's annual conference later this month.