Blair Assails Hussein, Backs Bush on Iraq
Pro-U.S. Stance Taken Despite Criticism at Home
By Glenn Frankel
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, September 4, 2002; Page A16
LONDON, Sept. 3 -- Prime Minister Tony Blair, besieged by
critics in his political party and by public opinion polls showing
strong opposition to military action against Iraq, today forcefully
articulated the case against President Saddam Hussein and
delivered a spirited defense of the United States and President
Blair spoke as European Union foreign ministers appeared to be
moving toward bridging a gap with the Bush administration over a
proposal for a U.N. Security Council resolution that would set a
deadline for Iraq to readmit U.N. weapons inspectors
unconditionally or face military action.
In tones that were alternately angry, lecturing and puzzled, Blair
today lashed out at the Iraqi government, describing it as
"appalling and brutal and dictatorial." He said it was continuing to
develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons in violation of
nine previous Security Council resolutions.
"This isn't just an issue for the United States," Blair told reporters
in the northern city of Sedgefield, his parliamentary district,
during a 90-minute news conference. "It is an issue for Britain, it
is an issue for the wider world. America shouldn't have to face it
alone." Britain will publish a dossier of Iraq's violations within the
next few weeks, Blair said.
Britain has been the closest ally of the United States in the
military campaigns of the past year. At the same time, it has often
worked to close differences between Washington and other
European governments that have viewed U.S. policies with
While Blair was on summer vacation, British public opinion
turned sharply against military action, with the most recent poll by
ICM Research reporting 71 percent were opposed to British
involvement in an invasion of Iraq. Published in Monday's Daily
Mirror newspaper, the poll showed that 38 percent of respondents
agreed with the statement that Blair "is Bush's poodle."
The prime minister seemed to bristle at the notion. "Look, I would
never support anything I thought was wrong out of some blind
loyalty to the United States," he said. "Some of what I read -- I
mean, let's not beat around the bush -- a lot of it is just
Blair said he understood that reasonable people had legitimate
concerns about how a military campaign against Hussein would
affect Middle East stability and the Arab-Israeli conflict. But he
said some of the criticism of Washington was "wrong, misguided
and dangerous. I also think that some of the criticism of George
Bush is just a parody. The person that I know and work with
operates on these security issues in a calm and sensible and
Leftists and moderates alike in Blair's ruling Labor Party have
expressed deep reservations about war with Iraq. But the prime
minister sought to shift public focus away from the rhetoric in
Washington and back to the Baghdad government.
"Some of the talk about this in the past few weeks, I have to say,
has astonished me," he said. "You would think that we're dealing
with some benign little democracy out in Iraq."
Asked if he endorsed Bush's insistence on "regime change" -- a
euphemism for Hussein's overthrow -- Blair replied: "Either the
regime starts to function in an entirely different way -- and there's
not much sign of that -- or the regime has to change."
European foreign ministers, who met last weekend in Denmark,
appeared to be seeking common ground between the Bush
administration's insistence on ousting Hussein and the European
Union's emphasis on preventing Iraq from developing weapons of
mass destruction. By proposing that the Security Council set a
firm deadline for Iraqi compliance, the ministers hope to persuade
Washington to seek U.N. approval before launching an attack.
Britain, France and Italy were reported to be pressing for the
proposal, which echoed Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's
remarks last weekend endorsing the return of U.N. weapons
inspectors as a critical "first step" in dealing with Iraq.
© 2002 The Washington Post Company
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