- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 11, 2002

LONDON (Agence France-Presse) British Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday that the time was not right for military action against Iraq, but that the threat posed by possible weapons of mass destruction would be confronted in a "measured" way.

"The time for military action has not yet arisen," Mr. Blair told Parliament, three days after he warned of possible military action to topple the "brutal, repressive" regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein after a two-day summit with President Bush in Texas.

The United States and Britain are calling on Baghdad to let in United Nations arms inspectors to verify that it no longer has weapons of mass destruction.

"There is no doubt at all that the development of weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein poses a severe threat, not just to the region but to the wider world," Mr. Blair said.

"Simply turning our backs on the issue of weapons of mass destruction is not an option.

"That is why I think it is so important that we stand with the U.S. in saying that this issue is an issue that has to be confronted and will be confronted," he said.

Mr. Blair told lawmakers that the whole region would be a better place without Saddam.

"However, the method of doing this [toppling Saddam] is something that is open to consultation and deliberation," he said.

"When the judgments are made, I've no doubt at all that this House and the whole country will want to debate the issue thoroughly."

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