- The Washington Times - Monday, April 8, 2002

LONDON Prime Minister Tony Blair drew sharp criticism from within his own party yesterday for what one member called "gung-ho commentary" in Texas, aligning Britain with President Bush's campaign to drive Saddam Hussein from power.
Mr. Blair's reiterated stance at a weekend summit at Mr. Bush's ranch threatened to further split his ruling Labor Party in Parliament, already riven by conflict over the government's edging closer to war against Iraq.
Tempers flared yesterday with the leak of text the British leader had prepared for delivery to an audience in College Station, Texas, in which he said that leaving Iraq to develop weapons of mass destruction in "flagrant breach" of U.N. resolutions was "not an option."
"I do not think Tony Blair's gung-ho commentary is at all helpful," said Peter Kilfoyle, a former defense minister in Mr. Blair's government.
"Ratcheting up the rhetoric on Iraq," Mr. Kilfoyle said, "does no favors in resolving difficulties between Palestinians and the Israelis.
"It may go down well in Texas," he said, referring to the two-day summit at the Bush ranch, where Iraq and the Middle East crisis were the focus of attention. But "it won't in the Middle East or in a large section of the Labor Party."
Speaking yesterday after a weekend of talks at Mr. Bush's Texas ranch, Mr. Blair said: "We must be prepared to act where terrorism or weapons of mass destruction threaten us. If necessary, the action should be military, and again, if necessary and justified, it should involve regime change."
In the remarks at the George Bush Senior Presidential Library in College Station, Mr. Blair also described the government of Saddam as "detestable, brutal."
"Leaving Iraq to develop weapons of mass destruction [is] not an option," he said.
More than 120 parliamentary members of Mr. Blair's Labor Party already have signed a motion voicing their "unease" over the prospect of Britain going to war against Iraq, and the pace at which preparations appear to be proceeding.
Denis Healey, Britain's equivalent of treasury secretary in a previous Labor government and himself a one-time candidate for prime minister, warned that an all-out attack against Saddam Hussein would be a mistake because "a dictator can always blame the death of civilians on the foreign power rather than on himself."
That sort of action, Mr. Healey told British Broadcasting Corp. yesterday, "is not going to help, unless it is very, very carefully targeted, and you go simply for what you know for certain to be targets, where they are actually producing these weapons."

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