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Blair Stresses Need For UN Involvement in Post-War Iraq - 2003-03-26

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is heading to Washington for talks with President Bush on the Iraq war and post-conflict objectives.

Mr. Blair has made it clear he wants to repair relations between the United States and the United Nations following the bitter divisions over the Iraq war.

Before departing for Washington, Mr. Blair told parliament that President Bush agrees with him that the United Nations should have a role in both humanitarian relief and political administration in a post-war Iraq.

"In the conversations I have had with President Bush it is very, very clear that we should make sure that any post-conflict Iraqi administration has the full endorsement of the United Nations," he said.

Mr. Blair said he will also meet U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to discuss how to quickly revive Iraq's oil-for-food program, which had been feeding about 60 percent of Iraq's population.

The prime minister could encounter skepticism on both sides of the Atlantic over future U.N. involvement in Iraq. There are still hard feelings in the Bush administration over France's refusal to allow U.N. Security Council backing for the military action in Iraq. France and Russia say they also will oppose any U.N. support for an interim administration in Iraq if it is run by the United States.

On battlefield news, Mr. Blair told parliament there was a limited uprising overnight in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. British officers say they fired weapons to destroy a Baath party office in Basra and several artillery pieces used by Iraqi forces in the city to attack demonstrators. But the prime minister cautioned people there about revolting before British forces are in a position to fully protect them.

"We have got to be careful that we know we have the support in place able to help them before we encourage them to do things that may lead to their death," Mr. Blair said.

Also appearing in parliament was the British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon. He said the overall battle plan is going well, but there remains concern that Iraq will use chemical or biological weapons.

"To date we have no evidence of Iraqi use of weapons of mass destruction during this campaign," Mr. Hoon said. "But it is impossible to know whether this is the result of successful military operations or a deliberate tactical judgment of the Iraqi regime. Indeed, we know from prisoners of war that protective equipment was issued to southern Iraqi divisions."

Prime Minister Blair said Iraqi officers who use weapons of mass destruction could face prosecution as war criminals.