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Sunday, 3 March, 2002, 10:29 GMT
Blair gives Iraq new warning
Tony Blair and George Bush
Blair is to meet Bush to discuss the weapons issue
Tony Blair has said the international community must take action if it finds weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The British prime minister will visit Washington in coming weeks to discuss the issue, which US President George Bush raised when he named Iraq as part of an "axis of evil".

We know they are trying to accumulate these weapons of mass destruction, we know he's prepared to use them

Tony Blair
In an interview for an Australian television programme, Mr Blair said the world must not repeat the mistakes it made in Afghanistan, where it "did nothing" against terrorism for too long.

His latest comments come after senior Labour MPs warned they would oppose any moves to support military action against Iraq.

Talks ahead

In Australia for the Commonwealth summit, Mr Blair told Channel Nine's 60 Minutes programme Mr Bush was "absolutely right to say weapons of mass destruction are a real danger in the world".

Tam Dalyell
Dalyell warns of Labour opposition ahead
"Iraq is in breach of all the United Nations resolutions on weapons inspectors.

"We know they are trying to accumulate these weapons of mass destruction, we know he's prepared to use them.

"So this is a real issue but how we deal with it, that's a matter we must discuss."

Lessons of Afghanistan

The prime minister argued the lessons of 11 September meant such threats must be tackled.

"One thing that we learned is that for 10 years Afghanistan was like that but we didn't do anything," he said.

"But even when they killed those people in Daar-es-Salaam, even when there was terrorist activity going on around the world, there just wasn't the sense of urgency that we had to deal with them.

Saddam Hussein
Iraq challenges the UK to say name any weapons sites
"But it may have been better, in retrospect, if we had had the foresight to deal with it first."

The prime minister stressed the risks of allowing chemical, nuclear or biological weapons fall into the wrong hands.

"These are not people like us," he said.

"They are not people who are democratically elected, they are not people who abide by the normal rules of human behaviour.

"If these weapons fall into their hands, and we know they have both the capability and the intention to use them, then I think we have got to act on it.

'Shuddering' prospects

"Because if we don't act, we will find out too late the potential for destruction."

The longest serving MP, Labour's Tam Dalyell, warned on Saturday that Mr Blair will face opposition from within his own party if he supports military action against Iraq.

Mr Dalyell dismissed as "make believe" suggestions that Saddam Hussein's enemies could be armed in the same way as the Northern Alliance that fought against the Taleban.

"The situation is entirely different," the Labour MP for Linlithgow told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

He said many in the Labour Party were "deeply, deeply uneasy" and there should be a Commons vote before the UK endorsed any military action.

"Parliament surely is entitled to make a judgment on what is called, on your programme the Fourth World War," he added.

Tory support

But there was backing for Mr Blair's comments from Conservative shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram.

Mr Ancram said no options should be ruled in or out but the problem of Iraq could not be ignored.

Iraq denies claims it is hiding away plants making weapons of mass destruction.

Last week, the Iraqi Government said it was ready to let in British arms inspectors if the UK could say where the weapons of mass destruction are being kept.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said "any attack on Iraq at this stage would be unwise".

See also:

02 Mar 02 | UK Politics
MPs 'will oppose' attack on Iraq
01 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Britain backs US over Iraq
25 Feb 02 | Middle East
Annan to tackle Iraq over arms
24 Feb 02 | Middle East
Blair and Bush 'to discuss Iraq action'
23 Feb 02 | Middle East
Saddam scorns Bush 'baby talk'
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