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Bush And Blair Talk War With Iraq After Meeting

PM: threat from weapons of mass distruction 'is real'

Speaking to journalists prior to talks with President Bush in America, the Prime Minister Tony Blair said that the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass distruction is 'an issue we have to deal with'. He added that 'the UN has got to be the way of dealing with this issue, not the way of avoiding dealing with it'.

Mr Blair emphasised that 'the threat from Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction - chemical, biological, potentially nuclear weapons capability - that threat is real.'

The Prime Minister said:

"...the catalogue of attempts by Iraq to conceal its weapons of mass destruction, not to tell the truth about it, not just over a period of months but over a period of years, that is why the issue is important."

Mr Blair went on to say that it is an issue for the whole of the international community. He said:

"But the UN has got to be the way of dealing with this issue, not the way of avoiding dealing with it. Because the point that I would emphasise to you, is that it is not us, it is not Britain or America that is in breach of United Nations resolutions, it is Saddam Hussein and Iraq."

The Prime Minister said:

"...we have got to make sure that we work out a way forward that of course mobilises the maximum support, but does so on the basis of removing a threat that the United Nations itself has determined is a threat to the whole of the world."

*******************

Speaking to journalists prior to talks with President Bush in America, the Prime Minister Tony Blair said that the threat posed by Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass distruction is 'an issue we have to deal with'. He added that 'the UN has got to be the way of dealing with this issue, not the way of avoiding dealing with it'.

Read the interview the Prime Minister and President Bush gave to journalists in full below.

PRESIDENT BUSH:

I look forward to spending a good three hours talking to our friend about how to keep the peace. This world faces some serious threat, and threats, and we are going to talk about it. We are going to talk about how to promote freedom around the world, we are going to talk about our shared values that recognises the work of every individual, and I am looking forward to this time. It is awfully thoughtful of Tony to come over here. It is an important meeting and because he is an important ally and an important friend. Welcome.

PRIME MINISTER:

Thanks. I am looking very much forward obviously to discussing the issues that are preoccupying us at the moment with the President and I thank him for his kind invitation to come here and his welcome.

The point that I would emphasise to you is that the threat from Saddam Hussein and weapons of mass destruction - chemical, biological, potentially nuclear weapons capability - that threat is real. We only need to look at the report from the International Atomic Energy Agency this morning, showing what has been going on at the former nuclear weapons sites, to realise that. And the policy of inaction is not a policy that we can responsibly subscribe to. So the purpose of our discussion today is to work out the right strategy for dealing with it, because deal with it we must.

QUESTION:

Inaudible.

PRESIDENT BUSH:

We are sure the Prime Minister will talk about the new report. I would remind you that when the inspectors first went into Iraq and were finally denied access, a report came out of the IAEA that they were six months away from developing a weapon. I don't know what more evidence we need.

PRIME MINISTER:

Absolutely right. And what we know from what has been going on there for a long period of time is not just the chemical, biological weapons capability, but we know that they were trying to develop nuclear weapons capability and the importance of this morning's report is that that it yet again shows that there is a real issue that has to be tackled here. And I was just reading coming over here, the catalogue of attempts by
Iraq to conceal its weapons of mass destruction, not to tell the truth about it, not just over a period of months but over a period of years, that is why the issue is important. And of course it is an issue not just for America, not just for Britain, it is an issue for the whole of the international community, but it is an issue we have to deal with. And that is why I say to you that the policy of inaction, doing nothing about it, is not something we can responsibly adhere to.

QUESTION:

Will you, Mr President, seek a UN resolution prior to any action against Iraq? And Prime Minister, would you sanction any action against Iraq without a UN resolution?

PRESIDENT BUSH:

Well first, I am going to give a speech next Thursday and I would like you to tune in.

PRIME MINISTER:

As I said to you, I think, at a press conference we gave earlier in the week, this is an issue for the whole of the international community. But the UN has got to be the way of dealing with this issue, not the way of avoiding dealing with it. Now of course, as we showed before in relation to Afghanistan, we want the broadest possible international support, but it has got to be on the basis of actually making sure that the threat that we have outlined is properly adhered to. Because the point that I would emphasise to you, is that it is not us, it is not Britain or America that is in breach of United Nations resolutions, it is Saddam Hussein and Iraq. And therefore this issue is there for the
international community to deal with, and we have got to make sure that it is a way of dealing with it.

QUESTION:

Inaudible.

PRESIDENT BUSH:

As you know our government, in 1988, action that my Administration has embraced, decided that this regime was not going to honour its commitments to get rid of weapons of mass destruction. The Clinton Administration supported a regime change. Many members of the current United States Senate supported regime change. My Administration still supports regime change. There are all kinds of ways to change regimes. This man is a man who said he was going to get rid of weapons of mass destruction and for 11 long years he has not fulfilled his promise, and we are going to talk about what to do about it. We owe it to future generations to deal with this problem and that is what these discussions are all about.

QUESTION:

Do you have any support from any other countries in the world, apart from Britain?

PRESIDENT BUSH:

Yes. A lot of people understand that this man has defied every UN resolution. 16 UN resolutions he has ignored. A lot of people understand he holds weapons of mass destruction; a lot of people understand he has invaded two countries; a lot of people understand he has gassed his own people; a lot of people understand he is unstable. So we have got a lot of support. A lot of people understand the danger.

PRIME MINISTER:

And I can tell you that from the discussions I have had with people, of course there are people asking perfectly reasonable questions about this, but the one thing that no-one can deny is that Saddam Hussein is in breach of the United Nations resolutions on weapons of mass destruction - that is chemical, biological, nuclear weapons - that that poses a threat not just to the region, because there is no way, if those weapons were used, that the threat would simply stay in the region. People understand that and we have got to make sure that we work out a way forward that of course mobilises the maximum support, but does so on the basis of removing a threat that the United Nations itself has determined is a threat to the whole of the world.

QUESTION:

When you asked the American people for support two years ago, there was no way that anyone could imagine . Had you known then what the job would entail, would you still have asked .

PRESIDENT BUSH:

There is no way that I could possibly have known what we were going to have to deal with. I am a citizen of a country that has got these two vast oceans protecting us. For all these years we were safe. People couldn't come and attack us - so we thought. Of course Hawaii got attacked, but that is not a part of our mainland. We felt secure in the country. There is no way we could have possibly envisioned that the battlefield would change, and it has, and that is why we have got to deal with all the threat. That is why Americans must understand that when a tyrant like Saddam Hussein possesses weapons of mass destruction it not only threatens the neighbourhood in which he lives, it not only threatens the region, it can threaten the United States of America, or Great Britain for that matter. The battlefield has changed. We are in
a new kind of war and we have got to recognise that. There is no way I could have possibly predicted that future. I am honoured to be the President, and so long as I am the President I am going to work hard to make America safe and the world more peaceful. Thank you all.

ENDS

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