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Blair Favors Second UN Resolution on Iraq - 2003-02-18

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, speaking to reporters in London, says Iraqi President Saddam Hussein continues to be in breach of U.N. resolutions calling for Baghdad to disarm. But Mr. Blair says he wants a second U.N. resolution before Britain goes to war against Iraq.

Prime Minister Blair says Saddam Hussein can still avoid war if he fully disarms Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. He says disarmament remains the most important issue regarding Iraq, not what he terms the brutality of Saddam Hussein's regime. But Mr. Blair also warns that the consequences of international inaction over Iraq will be just as bad as any war.

"I have always said that I wanted to resolve this through the U.N.," he said. "And I want a second resolution if we go to military action. I still think there is a lot of debate to go on before we get to the point of decision there in the United Nations."

Mr. Blair said the timing of a second U.N. resolution on Iraq would be discussed with key allies.

Political analysts in Britain say going to war without a second resolution would be politically risky for Mr. Blair. A recent Guardian/ICM poll shows that the prime minister's approval rating has plummeted in recent months, with 55 percent of those polled saying they are dissatisfied with him. The poll also shows that 52 percent of Britons oppose war with Iraq.

When asked about the massive antiwar demonstration that took place in London on Saturday, Mr. Blair expressed the hope that the protesters would at least listen to those who take a different position on Iraq.

"First, this issue of weapons of mass destruction and the link with international terrorism is serious and dangerous for our country and for the world," he said. "And secondly, if we do have to take military action, at least let us recognize that the consequences of removing Saddam will be the Iraqi people - who in their thousands - die as a result of Saddam's rule will be safe from the abuse that they suffer."

Mr. Blair warned against the dangers of creating an American-European divide, saying those who want to pull the two apart are playing the most dangerous game in international politics. On Monday, European Union leaders meeting in Brussels edged closer to Washington's tougher position, declaring U.N. weapons inspectors should be given time and resources to carry out their work, but inspections could not continue indefinitely.