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'A clear ultimatum to Saddam'


'A clear ultimatum to Saddam'

Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday that the international community had reached an impasse over its dealings with Iraq. Mr Blair made his comments following a summit between the UK, the US and Spain in the Azores (16 March).

'We have reached the point of decision,' he said, 'and we make a final appeal for there to be that strong unified message on behalf of the international community that lays down a clear ultimatum to Saddam that authorises force if he continues to defy the will of the whole of the international community set out in [UN resolution] 1441.'

Read the statement in full below.

Thank you Jose Maria. Thank you for hosting us today and I think it's worth just returning to the key point which is our responsibility to uphold the will of the United Nations set out in resolution 1441 last November. And for four and a half months now we have worked hard to get Saddam to cooperate fully, unconditionally as that resolution demanded. Even some days ago we were prepared to set out clear tests that allowed us to conclude whether he was cooperating fully or not with a clear ultimatum to him if he refused to do so. And the reason we approached it in that way is that that is what we agreed in resolution 1441. This was his final opportunity. He had to disarm unconditionally. Serious consequences would follow if he failed to do so.

And this is really the impasse that we have because some say there should be no ultimatum, no authorisation of force in any new UN resolution, instead more discussion in the event of non compliance. But the truth is that without a credible ultimatum authorising force in the event of non compliance then more discussion is just more delay with Saddam remaining armed with weapons of mass destruction and continuing a brutal, murderous regime in Iraq. And this game that he is playing is frankly a game that he's played over the last twelve years.

Disarmament never happens but instead the international community is drawn in to some perpetual negotiation. Gestures designed to divide the international community, but never real and concrete cooperation leading to disarmament. And there's not a single person on the Security Council that doubts the fact he is not fully cooperating today. Nobody, even those who disagree with the position that we have outlined, is prepared to say there is full cooperation as 1441 demanded. Not a single interview has taken place outside of Iraq, even though 1441 provided for it. Still no proper production or evidence of the destruction of, just to take one example, the ten thousand litres of anthrax that the inspectors just a week ago said was unaccounted for.

And that is why it is so important that the international community at this time gives a strong and unified message. And I have to say that I really believe that had we given that strong message some time ago Saddam might have realised that the games had to stop.

So now we have reached the point of decision and we make a final appeal for there to be that strong unified message on behalf of the international community that lays down a clear ultimatum to Saddam that authorises force if he continues to defy the will of the whole of the international community set out in 1441.

We will do all we can in the short time that remains to make a final round of contacts to see whether there is a way through this impasse. But we are in the final stages because after twelve years of failing to disarm him, now is the time when we have to decide.

Two other points briefly on the documents that we've put before you. The first is that President Aznar was just saying to you a moment or two ago on the transatlantic alliance is I think very important. Some of you will have heard me say this before, but let me just repeat it. I believe that Europe and America should stand together on the big issues of the day. I think it is a tragedy when we don't. And that transatlantic alliance is strong and we need to strengthen it still further.

And secondly, we've set out for you that should it come to conflict we make a pledge to the people of Iraq. As President Bush was just saying to you a moment or two ago, it is the people of Iraq who are the primary victims of Saddam. The thousands of children that die needlessly ever year, the people locked up in his prisons or executed, simply for showing disagreement with the regime, a country that is potentially prosperous reduced to poverty, sixty per cent of the population reliant on food aid. And what we say is that we will protect Iraq's territorial integrity. We will support representative government that unites Iraq on the democratic basis of human rights and the rule of law.

That we will help Iraq rebuild and not rebuild because of the problems of conflict, where if it comes to that we will do everything we can to minimise the suffering of the Iraqi people. But rebuild Iraq because of the appalling legacy that the rule of Saddam has left the Iraqi people. And that in particular Iraq's natural resources remain the property of the people of Iraq and that wealth should be used for the Iraqi people, it is theirs and will remain so, administered by the UN in the way we set out.

And finally on the Middle East peace process I welcome very much the statement that President Bush made the other day. I think it's important now. He said he wanted a partner on the Palestinian side. I think the, the coming appointment of Abu Mazan is so important there. It allows us to take this process forward, the road map gives us the way forward. The appointment of Abu Mazan gives us the right partner to take this forward and I believe that that will demonstrate and it's important to demonstrate it, particularly at this time, that our approach to people in the Middle East in that troubled region is indeed even handed. And all of us will work to make sure that that vision of a Middle East, two states, Israel confident of its security, a Palestinian state that is viable, comes about and is made reality. Thank you.


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