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Iraq: Blair Says U.S., Britain To Seek International Support

Aberdeen, Scotland; 8 September 2002 (RFE/RL) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair says the U.S. and Britain will seek international support for any action taken against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Blair made the comment after talks near Washington yesterday with U.S. President George W. Bush. Bush and Blair reiterated that they believe Saddam's regime is developing nuclear weapons and therefore poses an international threat. Blair has now returned home.

More top European officials and leaders today joined a chorus of opposition to any military action in Iraq that does not have the backing of the United Nations.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said in an interview published today in the Spanish daily "El Pais" that the stand-off should be resolved within the framework of the UN.

Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis also said he opposes a U.S-led attack without UN backing. And Belgium's Foreign Minister Louis Michel blamed British support of the U.S. for the lack of a unified EU policy on Iraq.

In Germany last night, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac said they opposed any unilateral action by the U.S. against Iraq.

Meanwhile, a former head of UN weapons inspections in Iraq, Scott Ritter, today rejected U.S. charges that Iraq poses an international threat.

Ritter, a U.S. national, made the remarks in an address to the Iraqi parliament. He warned that the United States risks violating UN resolutions if it decides to take unilateral action on Iraq.

Ritter stressed that Iraq's weapons programs were mostly dismantled during seven years of UN weapons inspections. He said that Iraq is not acting in a manner that threatens its neighbors or any countries, and called on the United States to prove its claims that Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction.

"The rhetoric of fear that is disseminated by my government and others has not to date been backed up by hard facts that substantiate any allegations that Iraq is today in posession of weapons of mass destruction or has links to terror groups responsible for attacking the United States."

But Ritter also appealed to Iraq to readmit weapons inspectors, barred from the country since 1998, to verify that it is not developing weapons of mass destruction. He said that "the path towards peace" depends on Iraq's cooperation with UN resolutions.