British Prime Minister Tony Blair says Iraq can keep its conventional military arsenal if it gives up weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Blair says if Iraq does not disarm peacefully, military force will be used.
Prime Minister Blair told a news conference Thursday it is vital that the U.N. Security Council approve a new resolution before U.N. weapons inspectors return to Iraq.
Mr. Blair says if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein accepts new and tougher terms of inspection, and gives up his weapons of mass destruction, he can retain his conventional arsenal.
"The world has decided, rightly, that Saddam Hussein, he can have a conventional army, navy and air force and however much we might want to see rid of him, he's got the ability to have that," Mr. Blair said. "What the international community said, however, is that he is not to have chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. And the purpose of what we are doing is the total disarmament of Saddam and the Iraqi regime of those weapons."
Mr. Blair said it is important for the international community to give Saddam Hussein a message that is clear and not ambiguous - that Iraq's mass destruction weapons will be eliminated, one way or another.
"Now, if it can be done by a tough new weapons inspection regime, we will do it that way. But if it can not be done that way, we have to do it the other way, by force, if necessary. Now it is as simple as that," he said.
Mr. Blair said the palaces of President Saddam Hussein must be subject to unannounced visits by U.N. weapons inspectors. He says the complexes could be used to store or manufacturer prohibited weapons. A deal struck earlier this week between Iraq and U.N. officials excludes eight palaces from surprise inspections.