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Blair backs Bush on Iraq weapons

Bush's speech drew criticism in Baghdad.
Bush's speech drew criticism in Baghdad.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair has followed U.S. President George W. Bush's State of the Union address by insisting there was "absolutely no doubt" about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

In his address, Bush did not talk about specific weapons but cited Saddam Hussein's WMD "related programs," saying: "Had we failed to act, the dictator's weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day."

Blair assured British lawmakers Wednesday that the Iraq Survey Group, led by David Kay, continued to search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq as well as "evidence of concealment of those programs." (Full story)

"There can be no doubt at all that those weapons existed, absolutely no doubt, because that is said not just by this government or the United States government, it was set out in detail over 12 years by the United Nations and by United Nations inspectors," Blair said.

In his Tuesday night address, Bush cited Kay's report as support for the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Bush also vowed that guerrillas in Iraq would not stop a planned handover of power to Iraqis.

"We are dealing with these thugs in Iraq just as surely as we dealt with Saddam Hussein's evil regime," Bush said, adding that the United States also faced a real threat of another terrorist attack.

CNN's Walter Rodgers said many Europeans opposed the Iraq war and would not have been persuaded to change their views by Bush's speech.

"Bush said Americans were still at risk and at risk of war, but he fudged the issue of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and is now talking only about weapons program activities in that country," Rodgers said. (Analysis)

In Baghdad, where many Iraqis blame Bush for the current instability -- saying that at least under Saddam Hussein they did not fear bomb attacks or the crime now rife in the Iraqi capital -- there was criticism of his speech, if no official reaction.

"Iraqis are not convinced by what Bush has to say," Abdul Hadi al-Husseini, a delegate at a meeting of Iraqi political parties, told Reuters.

"And we are tired of feeling like a piece of gum that Bush is chewing on so that he can advance himself."

Bush devoted much of Tuesday's State of the Union address to rallying Americans behind the war on terrorism.

He also urged Americans to stick with his leadership on Iraq, saying: "We have not come all this way -- through tragedy and trial and war -- only to falter and leave our work unfinished.

"The work of building a new Iraq is hard, and it is right."

Blair: "There can be no doubt at all that those weapons existed."

He saluted the hundreds of thousands of U.S. servicemen deployed across the world and declared, "By bringing hope to the oppressed and delivering justice to the violent, they are making America more secure."

But independent analysts at the opening session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said the war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq had served only to aggravate the dangers facing the world.

"No, we are not safer," said Jessica Stern, a lecturer in public policy at Harvard University.

"Going into Iraq in the way we did, without broad international support, really increased the ability of al Qaeda and its sympathizers to 'prove' that the objective of the United States is to humiliate the Islamic world, more than it was to liberate the Iraqi people."

Gareth Evans, former Australian foreign minister and head of the International Crisis Group think tank, said al Qaeda and its sympathizers had expanded their theater of operations since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States to countries including Morocco, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.

"The unhappy truth is that the net result of the war on terror, so far at least, has been more war and more terror," Evans said.

"In Iraq, the least plausible of all the reasons for going to war -- terrorism -- has now become the most harrowing of its consequences."

Meanwhile the BBC said Wednesday that David Kelly, the weapons expert whose suicide rocked the British government, believed Iraq did pose an immediate threat.

Kelly told the BBC before the war that Iraq's weapons could have taken "days or weeks" to deploy. But he did not back Blair's claim that they could be launched in 45 minutes. (Full story)

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