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World - Europe

Blair: Saddam Hussein a 'serial breaker of promises'

December 16, 1998
Web posted at: 7:28 PM EST (0028 GMT)

LONDON (CNN) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair called Iraqi President Saddam Hussein a "serial breaker of promises" and said his actions left the U.S. and Britain no choice but to launch a military attack.

"Since the Gulf War, the entire international community has worked to stop Saddam Hussein from keeping and developing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, and from continuing to threaten his neighbors," Blair told reporters shortly after the military action was launched.

"If he will not, through reason and diplomacy, abandon his weapons of mass destruction program, it must be degraded and diminished by military force," he said.

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The military action, dubbed Operation Desert Fox, followed the latest in a series of clashes between U.N. weapons inspectors and Iraqi officials over the inspectors access to sites suspected of possibly producing or housing components for weapons of mass destruction.

"It is his desire to develop these weapons of mass destruction. He has not for one instant yielded up that malign intent. The threat is now, and it is a threat to his neighbors, to his people and to the security of the world," said Blair.

He said the report delivered Tuesday by U.N. Special Commission Chairman Richard Butler showed a continued pattern of refusing to cooperate, as Hussein had agreed to in a memorandum of understanding.

"It is damning. It is a catalogue of destruction," Blair said. "It shows quite clearly one more time that Saddam has no intention whatever of keeping to his word. He is a serial-breaker of promises."

"We have exhausted all other avenues. We act because we must," he said.

The prime minister said all attempts would be made to avoid civilian targets. "Our quarrel is not with the Iraqi people. It never has been."


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