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Britain: Iraq Should Face UN Deadline to Disarm - 2002-09-12

Senior British officials are calling for a strict deadline to be set for Iraq to comply with United Nations resolutions or face military attack. Prime Minister Tony Blair discussed the issue with opposition leaders Thursday.

Prime Minister Blair has briefed the opposition on the Iraq crisis, as he makes plans for an emergency session of parliament to debate policy on Iraq on September 24.

Before parliament meets, Mr. Blair is preparing to release a dossier alleging that Iraq continues to stockpile weapons of mass destruction, in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions that ended the 1991 Gulf War.

The Conservative party leader, Iain Duncan Smith, told reporters after meeting Mr. Blair that the U.N.'s credibility is on the line. He says Iraqi President Saddam Hussein must be confronted with a tough new U.N. resolution that threatens military force.

"My point here and the one that I have agreed with the prime minister, a strong resolution with time scales in it is what is necessary," he said. "But military action must be countenanced as a way of backing that up. If we don't do that, Saddam Hussein will pay no attention to this. And he poses a clear and growing threat."

Earlier, British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said war with Iraq is not inevitable. He spoke with British radio from the United States, where he has been consulting senior defense officials.

Mr. Hoon said Britain agrees that Iraq should face a U.N. deadline to disarm.

"A U.N. process as well as a clear ultimatum with a sting in its tail as far as prospective military operations is concerned is part of making it clear to Iraq just how seriously we view this situation," Mr. Hoon said.

The leader of the lower house of parliament, Robin Cook, says war is not imminent. But he says if Iraq does not comply, he would expect Mr. Blair to get a vote of approval in parliament before sending British forces to fight there.