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Saturday, 7 September, 2002, 20:40 GMT 21:40 UK
Bush and Blair plot Iraq strategy
Young Iraqi cadets receive weapons training
Baghdad is urging all Iraqis to be ready for conflict
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has arrived in Washington for talks with President George W Bush on building an international coalition for possible military action against Baghdad.

The two leaders are holding three hours of discussions at the US president's retreat, Camp David, to discuss what can be done to stop Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from developing and using weapons of mass destruction.

The policy of inaction (on Iraq) is not a policy we can responsibly subscribe to

Tony Blair
But while the UK Government has said the military option must not be ruled out, Mr Blair is also expected to urge Mr Bush to work through the United Nations Security Council to secure backing for tough action.

And two other key European leaders, French President Jacques Chirac and Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, have reaffirmed their opposition to a "unilateral US attack" on Iraq, after talks in Hanover.

The German chancellor has repeatedly stated his opposition to a US-led military attack on Iraq, even if approved by the United Nations.

Mr Chirac believes an attack on Iraq could not be justified without the support of the UN Security Council.

Arab hopes

It appears this view could be gaining some support in the Bush administration.

Tony Blair at Heathrow Airport on Saturday
Blair says he is confident he can win around international opinion
The Washington Post reports that the US president will leave open the possibility of a new round of UN weapons inspections when he addresses the UN next week.

Arab League General Secretary Amr Moussa has said that from his contacts with the Baghdad authorities he is optimistic a deal can be reached to allow the return of inspectors to Iraq.

Mr Bush and Mr Blair have been trying to enlist the support of the other permanent members of the Security Council - Russia, France and China - for military action.

Any one of them could veto a UN resolution backing such action.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin told Mr Bush on Friday that he had "serious doubts" about military action.

New UN resolution

Prior to talks with Mr Blair, President Bush said that satellite photographs released by a UN agency showed clear evidence that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction.

"I don't know what more evidence we need," said Mr Bush.

Bush's diplomatic drive
Friday: Calls to leaders of Russia, China and France
Saturday: Talks with British PM
Monday: Meeting with Canadian PM
Thursday: Speech at the UN

The meeting between Mr Bush and Mr Blair, which they insist is not a council of war, will test just how open the president is to working through the UN and to giving diplomacy one last chance.

The two men could decide to ask the UN to pass a resolution putting the onus firmly on Iraq to prove that it is not developing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

Mr Bush will address the UN General Assembly next Thursday - a year and a day after the attacks which triggered the war on terror.

Both the US and UK Governments say they have evidence that Iraq has biological and chemical weapons and the potential for a nuclear capability.

Mr Blair has promised to publish a dossier showing this in a few weeks' time.

The BBC's Nick Bryant
"Never before has Tony Blair made such an important trip across the Atlantic"
US President George Bush
"We will be talking about how to keep the peace"

Key stories





See also:

07 Sep 02 | Politics
07 Sep 02 | Politics
06 Sep 02 | Middle East
04 Sep 02 | Middle East
05 Sep 02 | Americas
06 Sep 02 | World
07 Sep 02 | Media reports
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