- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 7, 2002

British Prime Minister Tony Blair vowed yesterday that his country was prepared to shed blood to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, as President Bush's call for military action was rebuffed by the leaders of Russia, China and France.
Mr. Blair, who is traveling to Camp David to meet with Mr. Bush today, said in an interview yesterday with the British Broadcasting Corp. that the "special relationship" between the United States and Britain includes his government's support for military strikes to oust Saddam.
Asked whether Britain was "prepared to send troops to commit themselves, to pay the blood price?" Mr. Blair responded by saying: "Yes.""What is important is that, at moments of crisis, they don't need to know simply that you are giving general expressions of support and sympathy," Mr. Blair said. "That is easy, frankly. They need to know: Are you prepared to commit, are you prepared to be there when the shooting starts?"
Mr. Blair's comments came as the president spoke with the leaders of Russia, China and France to lay out his case for removing Saddam. None supported unilateral military action by the United States as a solution.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said the United Nations should first enforce existing resolutions calling for inspectors to monitor Iraq to see whether Saddam is producing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. French President Jacques Chirac said the U.N. Security Council should decide the matter, a stance shared by China.
Mr. Putin told Mr. Bush that world leaders need to "coordinate political and diplomatic efforts with the aim of implementing existing U.N. Security Council resolutions," according to Kremlin spokesman Alexei Gromov.
"If Iraq continues to refuse the unconditional return of the inspectors, it is up to the Security Council to take appropriate measures. They should be debated at that time," Chirac spokeswoman Catherine Colonna said.
Meanwhile, Iraq said an air strike Thursday in the country's southern no-fly zone by U.S. and British planes struck civilian targets — an assertion Baghdad makes after nearly every strike in the zone off-limits to Iraqi jets since the 1991 Gulf war.
The Pentagon denied the accusation and said the air strike was in response to fire from Iraqis.
"We were fired upon, and we responded," Brig. Gen. John Rosa, the deputy operations director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon press conference yesterday.
The Pentagon also denied reports in British newspapers that the air strike was the largest in four years, involving more than 100 planes."The number is wrong. This idea that it's the largest strike in four years is wrong," said Lt. Col. David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman.Col. Lapan was unable to say how may warplanes took part in the strike, but he said it was "of normal proportions directed at a site that fired at U.S. aircraft."
The White House played down reports of the dissenting views of world leaders in phone calls yesterday.
"None of that was said by those leaders in those phone calls," Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "I think the fair way to summarize what the foreign leaders said to the president is that they were welcoming the president's call, they welcome the president's consultation, and that they are open to the president's ideas, and they want to listen," he said.
Mr. Fleischer said Mr. Bush's phone calls are just the beginning of a dialogue to persuade other nations to join the United States in removing Saddam.
Mr. Fleischer said the president informed the leaders that he has not yet made up his mind on what action to take in Iraq. The president also promised to send a group of American officials next week to each of the three nations' capitals to consult further with U.S. allies.Mr. Putin told Mr. Bush that an invasion of Iraq would go against international law, Mr. Gromov said.
The Russian leader later told Mr. Blair that the use of force could have "serious, negative consequences for the situation in the Gulf region, the Middle East and for the future of the U.S.-led anti-terrorism coalition," according to a statement.
Mr. Blair has pledged to release in the coming weeks clear evidence of Baghdad's efforts to develop nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, a move designed to prove the threat posed by Iraq.
In Beijing, China's official Xinhua News Agency said Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Mr. Bush discussed world affairs but didn't say whether they brought up Saddam.
China has said any military action against Baghdad should be decided by the United Nations, where Mr. Bush will deliver an address Thursday to lay out his case against Iraq.
Other world leaders spoke out yesterday on Iraq. They included German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who has publicly opposed a U.S. military strike against Saddam.
The German leader assured the Bush administration that his stance on Iraq does not diminish his nation's commitment on the U.S.-led war against terrorism.
Meanwhile, leaders of Congress — many of whom have had private meetings with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld — yesterday continued to say they have not been given enough information to justify a military strike on Iraq."Some of our questions were answered, but there are a lot more out there that need to be addressed before we can make any conclusive decision on what needs to be done," said Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat.
Mr. Fleischer took issue with Mr. Daschle's demand that action in Iraq follow approval by the United Nations.
"It does sound a little bit odd that the United States Congress would say that the United States Congress cannot represent the American people in a vote until the United Nations represents people from other nations in a vote. The United States Congress is very capable of representing the American people," Mr. Fleischer said.
U.N. experts studying satellite photos of Iraq have identified new construction at several sites linked in the past to Baghdad's development of nuclear weapons, officials said yesterday."We see changes on the ground. But we don't draw any conclusions," said Mark Gwozdecky of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Vienna, Austria-based nuclear regulatory arm of the United Nations. He said that inspectors need to be brought in to identify what is being built.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday reiterated his opposition to a U.S. attack on Iraq, saying it "would increase international tension."
But Israel's new ambassador to the United States said yesterday that overthrowing Saddam would advance democracy in the Middle East."If there is a regime change in Iraq, it will send shock waves through the region," Ambassador Danny Ayalon said at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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