- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 3, 2002

LONDON Prime Minister Tony Blair will fly to the United States on Friday for a summit with President Bush over the future of Iraq, but without a dossier on Baghdad's nuclear and chemical weapons threat that he had been expected to take along.
Instead, diplomatic sources said, the two leaders would focus their attention on how best "in general" to deal with the nagging problem of Saddam Hussein.
Mr. Blair also is expected to put what was described as "gentle but firm pressure" on Mr. Bush for a tougher line on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
The original aim of the summit at Mr. Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, was to tackle the issue of Iraq, drawing on a major report compiled by British intelligence agencies on Saddam's buildup of weapons of mass destruction, including a nuclear bomb and missile program.
Political and diplomatic sources said the agenda has been changed because the Iraq dossier is still not ready for release, and because the Middle East crisis threatens to spiral out of control. Some observers in Britain say Washington is a less-than-enthusiastic party to resolve the Mideast crisis.
The prime minister and the president will have only the weekend together at their barbecue-and-beer summit before Mr. Blair has to fly back home in time for the state funeral Tuesday for Queen Mother Elizabeth, who died on Easter eve at the age of 101.
Mr. Blair is scheduled to leave for the United States after a service Friday at Westminster Hall to receive the coffin of the queen mother, officially starting 31/2 days of lying in state. The prime minister's office said he was going ahead with the Texas summit with the "full agreement" of Buckingham Palace.
Although Mr. Blair has begun a campaign to prepare the British public for military strikes, alongside U.S. forces, aimed at toppling Saddam, Downing Street now insists the summit is "in no sense a council of war."
London's Financial Times reported this week that the release of the dossier, expected last week from Cabinet office intelligence chiefs, had been delayed amid speculation that it provided insufficient evidence to support a war against Baghdad.
But the prime minister's office said the report was not ready for publication. The Foreign Office insisted that "when the time is right, we will release further material."
Diplomatic sources said the Mideast crisis is now considered a major stumbling block. One source said London is eager to see Washington bring more pressure on both Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to "back off" and calm the turbulence in Israel.
Meanwhile, Mr. Blair is under some pressure to back off his tough line of threats against Iraq. More than 120 members of Parliament from his own Labor Party have signed a House of Commons motion expressing their "unease" and calling for "restraint" in any plans for military action against Saddam.


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