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Blair: U.N. will back war in weeks

Blair, Bush
Blair said he believed sceptics at the U.N. would be convinced

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President Bush and Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair answer questions about Iraq during a White House news conference (January 31)
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British Prime Minister Tony Blair tells CNN's Christiane Amanpour that he would seek a second U.N. resolution before taking military action against Iraq.
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Chief U.N. arms inspector Hans Blix weighs Iraq's offer to return to Baghdad.
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LONDON, England -- The United Nations will sanction war with Iraq within weeks if Saddam Hussein does not disarm, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has insisted.

Blair was speaking after talks in the U.S. with President George W. Bush on the next step in the crisis over Iraq.

At a news conference following Friday's talks in Washington, Bush said he and Blair agreed the issue must be resolved in "weeks not months."

Blair, speaking to reporters on his way back to London, said that did not mean sceptics could not be convinced.

U.N. Security Council members France and Germany are among those who have spoken out against war. Blair said they were expressing "people's natural reluctance to want to go to war."

However, when the time came to make a decision on whether Iraq had complied with U.N. demands to disarm, that could be overcome, he said.

Failing to pass a second resolution, if the U.N. inspectors continued to say Saddam was not co-operating, would "breach the understanding that gave rise to the first resolution."

"It is really a question of whether people believe Saddam is likely to comply or not. Personally I think it is frankly obvious he is not," he told the BBC.

Speaking to reporters on his flight back to London, Blair said: "The U.S. has always believed that the current Resolution 1441 provides sufficient authority (to use force against Iraq), but 1441 also clearly implies further discussion."

At the news conference after Friday's talks, Bush said he would welcome a second U.N. resolution on Iraq if it served to reinforce the message that the international community was determined to disarm the country's regime. (Full story)

"It would be welcomed if it is yet another signal that we are intent upon disarming Saddam Hussein," Bush said.

Blair is meeting South African President Thabo Mbeki on Saturday for talks on topics ranging from Iraq to Zimbabwe.

The South African government has said Mbeki will try to convince Blair that war against Iraq is unnecessary.

Mbeki has said the standoff must be solved through the United Nations and that a war in Iraq would threaten international peace and create instability in the Middle East and a deep economic crisis for Africa.

Next week, Blair will travel to France for talks with President Jacques Chirac, who opposes military action.

Meanwhile, accusing the United States and Britain of pressuring weapons inspectors for political purposes, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri has said the inspectors need to work with "more transparency, objectivity and impartiality."

He also calls the report to the U.N. Security Council earlier this week by chief U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix "meager," focusing on "negative presumptions and allegations that are groundless."

Sabri detailed Iraq's stance in a 14-page letter to the January president of the Security Council, Jean-Marc de la Sabliere of France. CNN was provided a five-page summary of the letter by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. (Full story)


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