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British PM Predicts 'Tough and Difficult Moments' in Iraq War - 2003-03-28


British Prime Minister Tony Blair says the war in Iraq will face "tough and difficult moments," but he is confident the United Nations will soon approve massive food aid for the Iraqi people. Mr. Blair spoke in New York, following his talks with President Bush and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Prime Minister Blair has told British radio the war has gone well in its first week, but it will take time to defeat Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, and win the confidence of the Iraqi people.

Mr. Blair said it is wrong to expect Iraqi citizens to rise up, as long as Saddam Hussein's fate remains uncertain, and as long as his security apparatus remains in place. "For the ordinary people, who are used to these people [security forces] literally taking them out of their homes, taking their families away, executing them - tens-of-thousands of political prisoners, large numbers of people killed through repression - these people are not going to rise up, unless they know that Saddam is going," he said.

Mr. Blair said he remains committed to the war aims of disarming Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein, though he concedes many Britons are still skeptical about his reasons for going to war. "I believe that there is this new security threat. And, I think, we really haven't opened our eyes to it. I think America has in a sense, because of September 11, because it was such a gross atrocity, that it shook and changed its entire psychology," he said. "But this security threat is real. The link between these rogue repressive states with weapons of mass destruction and terrorist groups, those links are real. But quite apart from that, one of the reasons why I have always thought that, if we had to take military action with respect to Iraq, we should do so with a strong heart and a clear conscience, is because of the nature of the regime."

Mr. Blair said that, after his talks with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, he is confident a new U.N. resolution will be passed within a day to revive the oil-for-food program that had been feeding 60 percent of the Iraqi people.

Mr. Blair has made it a personal priority to try to repair relations between the United States and the United Nations, after France blocked U.N. authorization for military action in Iraq.