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Saddam should take the peaceful route and disarm

PM: 'Saddam should take the peaceful route and disarm'

Saddam Hussein will be 'disarmed by force' if he does not take the peaceful route, Prime Minister Tony Blair has warned. Mr Blair was answering questions during his monthly press conference at Downing Street.

In his opening statement, Mr Blair said he understands the concerns that people have on the issue of Iraq. He said:

"The threat seems to some people to be remote, but I passionately believe that we must disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, we must uphold the authority of the United Nations, we must show rogue states and terrorist organisations that when we say we intend to deal with the issue of weapons of mass destruction we mean it."

Turning to the economy, the Prime Minister commented that planned tax rises due in April are necessary for sustained long term investment in public services. Mr Blair said that without investment from the state, people will have to pay more out of their own pocket through insurance schemes. He added that the public service reform programme would be pushed on in every field.

Commenting on the ongoing fire dispute, the Prime Minister said that strike action is 'wrong, dangerous and unjustified' and confirmed that the government's position remains unchanged. He said:

"...we support the Bain reforms, we will hold firm to those reforms and we believe that is the only justifiable basis upon which to settle the dispute."

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