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Britain Backs US Stand on Iraq, but Rest of Europe Cautious - 2003-01-29

Britain has backed the tough stand on Iraq taken by U.S. President George W. Bush in his State of the Union address, while the rest of Europe has reacted with more caution.

Questions on Iraq dominated British Prime Minister Tony Blair's weekly appearance before parliament.

The prime minister endorsed President Bush's assertion of links between al-Qaida terrorists and Iraq, though he said there is no evidence Iraq was involved in the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Mr. Blair also played down criticism that in the event of war with Iraq, British troops would be under the control of American military commanders. He instead appealed for unity against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"It is surely better that we combine now as a House [of Commons], as a country, to put maximum pressure on Saddam, because the one thing that would make conflict inevitable is a signal of weakness in our determination to deal with him," Mr. Blair said.

Mr. Blair also made it clear that the campaign to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction will not be confined to Iraq.

"After we deal with Iraq, we then do - yes, through the United Nations - again have to confront North Korea about its weapons programs," he said. "We have to confront those companies and individuals trading in weapons of mass destruction. When do we stop? We stop when the threat to our security is properly and fully dealt with."

Other European countries have been cautious in their reaction to the Bush speech. But there is widespread praise for President Bush's decision to present fresh evidence against Iraq before the U.N. Security Council next Wednesday.

Russia says it is ready to listen to and analyze the new evidence, which will be presented by Secretary of State Colin Powell.

France says it welcomes the American decision, saying the information could be useful to U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq.

EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, says he is glad the United States is continuing to work through diplomatic channels.

And Germany says it looks forward to seeing the new information, while reiterating that the Security Council must approve the use of military force against Iraq.