Britain And US Ready To Invade
Iraq Alone Says Blair

By Kamal Ahmed, Ed Vulliamy at Camp David
and Peter Beaumont in London
The Observer - London

Tony Blair issued a stark warning last night that he was ready to commit British troops to fight alongside US forces in a war against Iraq - even if other members of the United Nations were opposed to military action.
Signalling that strikes against Saddam Hussein were virtually inevitable, the Prime Minister stressed that 'inaction was not an option' and that Britain had a duty to act now to save civilians from the threat of weapons of mass destruction.
As Blair flew to the United States last night for crucial talks with President George W. Bush at Camp David, he told reporters aboard his specially chartered jet that he was convinced the British public would be persuaded of the need for action once details of Saddam's weapons programme were published.
'The threat is very real and it is a threat not just to America or to the international community, but to Britain,' he said. 'If these weapons are developed and used, then there is no way that any conflict Saddam initiated using these weapons would not have direct implication for the interest of Britain.'
Blair believes public opinion will harden with the publication tomorrow of a report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, which will detail Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological capabilities.
The report, which has been seen by officials at Number 10, is thought to give details of Saddam's attempt to rebuild his nuclear capabilities since the ending of UN weapons inspections in 1998.
It will also detail his development of drone planes to release chemical and biological weapons over long distances. The report will concentrate on whether Iraq is supporting terrorist organisations around the world with weapons or finance.
The Government was also intending to publish a dossier that would include new intelligence reports on Saddam's operations which have not been seen in public before.
In comments echoed by US officials, a bullish Blair also gave a broad hint last night that Britain and the US were prepared to act without support from other UN nations, saying the present containment regime against Saddam of no-fly zones and sanctions could only go so far.
Although he stressed that he would prefer to go ahead with the support of the international community, Blair said the UN would not be able simply to prevaricate over action - comments viewed in some quarters as an attempt to pressure other countries to fall in behind the US and Britain.
Senior Bush administration sources revealed last night that Bush will tell world leaders at the UN on Thursday that unless they take quick, strong action to disarm Iraq, the US will be forced to act on its own.
But British troops were also likely to be deployed. Peppering his comments with the argument that Saddam needed to be dealt with now, Blair told journalists he was 'sceptical' that the return of United Nations weapons inspectors could defuse the Iraqi threat, adding that he did not believe a UN resolution was necessary to authorise military action against Iraq.
In an interview due to be broadcast today, Blair is also expected to tell the BBC that Britain should be prepared to commit troops alongside the US in view of the 'real and immediate' threat posed by Iraq.
'If I thought they were pursuing military action in a way that was wrong, I would never support it. But I've never found that, and I don't expect to find it in the future,' he says.
Blair and Bush were meeting last night to carve out a detailed plan for a strict ultimatum and deadlines for Saddam to admit weapons inspectors, unhindered, backed by a robust military presence already mobilised in the region.
They will also draw up the strategy for presenting a case for action to the now crucial UN General Assembly on Thursday, to be addressed by Bush the day after the anniversary of the 11 September attacks.
The comments follow Bush's apparent failure to persuade the leaders of Russia, China and France of the need for military action in personal calls on Friday. Bush has said he will dispatch teams of officials to the three capitals to present the evidence of the threat posed by Iraq.
On the inspectors, Blair said: 'We have got to see this in the light of experience. Why did the inspectors go? It was because the inspectors found they couldn't do their work. Whatever weapons inspection regime is put in has to be one that's very effective.'
Pressed whether a new UN resolution was needed, Blair said simply: 'There's no doubt this issue has to be dealt with. The only decision that's been taken at this stage is that inaction is not an option.'
Blair said, while he wanted the 'broadest possible coalition' for any action, 'we have, however, to make sure this issue is dealt with one way or another.'
Asked if he had received a cool response in recent talks with France and Russia, Blair replied: 'I wouldn't say that. I think most people are at first base, which is that, yes, this is a problem and we can't ignore it.'
Senior sources say that the White House will sell its determination to fight Iraq according to a strategy drawn up at a summit in June and unashamedly entwined with the 11 September anniversary.
Officials say the campaign for public hearts and minds, and also the backing of Congress and administration sceptics, will begin with the President's speech in New York.,12239,788158,00.html


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