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Iraq: Bush, Blair To Discuss Possible Military Action

Washington, 31 January 2003 (RFE/RL) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair has arrived in Washington ahead of talks at Camp David today with U.S. President George W. Bush on the Iraq crisis and preparations for possible military action. Blair's visit comes amid a split between European countries over Iraq. Blair and the leaders of seven other countries have issued a public declaration backing the tough U.S. position. But France and Germany have not joined, saying they want weapons inspections to continue.

Bush yesterday warned that efforts to disarm Iraq peacefully will last only "weeks" longer, not months. Bush also said he would welcome Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and leading members of his regime going into foreign exile as a way of resolving the crisis.

Chief United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix said he has seen no evidence in recent days of increased Iraqi cooperation with the arms-inspection process. Blix earlier this week told the UN Security Council that Iraq has failed to answer a number of key questions about its weapons programs.

Iraq has invited Blix and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohammad el-Baradei, to come to Baghdad before 10 February for another round of talks on ways to increase cooperation.

But el-Baradei said today that Iraq must remove obstacles now hampering inspectors in order for them to return to Iraq ahead of the next UN report. He said Iraq needs to "move forward" on the right of inspectors to interview scientists in private and to use high-altitude surveillance planes in the search of banned weapons.