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[casi] From today's papers: 04-03-02

A. Blair gives strongest hint yet on taking war to Iraq, Guardian, 4th March
B. Spinning to war on Iraq, Guardian, 4th March [opinion my the chair of the
Stop the War Coalition]
C. Mr Bush's 'first friend' should warn him against going to war with Iraq,
Independent, 4th March [leading article]
D. Blair defends Bush plan for attack on Saddam, Independent, 4th March
E. Blair warns concerted effort needed to deal with weapons of mass
destruction, Financial Times, 4th March
F. US poised to press Egypt over Iraq action, Financial Times, 4th March

Plenty for the letter writers today!

Financial Times:

A. Blair gives strongest hint yet on taking war to Iraq

Ewen MacAskill in Coolum and Nicholas Watt
Monday March 4, 2002
The Guardian

Tony Blair yesterday gave the biggest hint yet that Britain will line up
with the US in any military confrontation to depose the Iraqi leader, Saddam
In contrast with other European leaders who have signalled that they will
not back a US military strike to depose Saddam, Mr Blair ratcheted up the
rhetoric against the Iraqi leader, claiming that he was developing weapons
of mass destruction and was capable of using them.

"If chemical, biological or nuclear capability fall into the wrong hands,
then I think we have got to act on it because, if we don't act, we will find
out too late the potential for destruction," Mr Blair said.

Interviewed at the Commonwealth conference in Australia, the prime minister
made a case for dealing with Iraq as a matter of urgency, citing the regret
now felt at the failure to deal with Osama bin Laden years ago.

He said Iraq was not a matter for the US alone: "This is not something that
just America is talking about. It is something we have to deal with."

His remarks were quickly condemned by Labour MPs, who are furious with Mr
Blair for failing to stand up to President George Bush after his notorious
"axis of evil" speech. Tam Dalyell, the father of the House of Commons,
said: "I feel sheer dismay. If there is an attack on Iraq it will blow apart
the international coalition [against terrorism]."

A final decision on committing forces to overthrow Saddam has still to be
made and military action is unlikely in the next few months.

Mr Bush and Mr Blair are piling pressure on Saddam to allow United Nations
weapons inspectors to return to Iraq to investigate claims that he has
developed chemical and biological weapons and is trying to build nuclear
ones. Arms inspectors have not been allowed into Iraq since 1998.

The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, is to meet the Iraqi foreign minister,
Naji Sabri, at the organisation's headquarters in New York on Thursday to
discuss the weapons inspections. Iraq's deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz,
warned the US yesterday that any attempt to invade the country would lead to
Vietnam-style casualties.

"It was not the jungle that allowed the Vietnamese to win but determination.
The Iraqis will fight in every street and every house," he said.

Mr Blair will travel to Washington next month to discuss options over Iraq
with Mr Bush.

Asked on Australian television's Channel Nine about whether the issue of
weapons of mass destruction meant war was imminent, Mr Blair replied: "Let
us wait and see exactly what happens but it's clear we need to deal with
this issue."

The prime minister indicated that the west was not planning to repeat the
mistakes it had made by responding slowly to the threat posed by Bin Laden
and his al-Qaida network. "One thing that we learned is that for 10 years
Afghanistan was like that but we didn't do anything. There just wasn't the
sense of urgency that we had to deal with them."

MPs will be given a chance to voice their concern about the threat of
military action against Iraq when a special debate is held at Westminster on
Wednesday, the day the prime minister returns from the Commonwealth

Alice Mahon, the Labour MP for Halifax, who is a long-standing critic of the
government's policy on Iraq, said last night: "The prime minister's remarks
are no surprise - it seems that our foreign policy is made in Washington."

More moderate MPs are also uneasy. Donald Anderson, the Labour chairman of
the cross-party foreign affairs select committee, said he supported the
prime minister's attempts to step up the pressure on Iraq to comply with UN
weapons inspections. But he added: "If we were to move to support US
military action that would be a different context with a very uncertain

B. Spinning to war on Iraq

Andrew Murray
Monday March 4, 2002
The Guardian

Spin may be proving an increasing embarrassment for the government at home.
But its New Labour practitioners must be hoping they can still turn a trick
when it comes to events abroad. And with the prime minister showing every
sign of joining in with George Bush's war of revenge against Iraq, the
British public is in for a sustained propaganda offensive to soften it up
for what threatens to be a bloody and dangerous conflict.
It will take several months before the projected US invasion to bring about
"regime change" in Iraq can begin. At every step along the way, ministers
will try to make the case that an attack on Saddam Hussein is the only way
to spare civilisation untold dangers. The prime minister was at it
yesterday, warning that the Iraqi government had weapons that threatened the

But can those continually caught fibbing over everything from public
spending increases to who is doing what favour for whom be trusted when it
comes to war and peace? It would pay to be sceptical. Iraq, in particular,
has already been the subject of a prolonged campaign to transform its image
from the domestic despotism it is into the worldwide menace that it isn't.

The US has its own agenda for attacking Iraq, mainly because the
installation of a pliant government in Baghdad - friendly to Israel and big
oil and indifferent to the Palestinians - is a prerequisite for a wider
Washington-approved settlement in the Middle East.

Immediately after September 11, former CIA director James Woolsey was
dispatched to Europe by Washington hardliners to knit together evidence
linking the Iraqi government to the attacks on New York and Washington.
Months of digging have left him empty-handed. Last week, Mr Woolsey was
reduced in the Wall Street Journal to repeating the mantra that the Baghdad
regime was "evil", a category which apparently relieves the prosecutor of
any obligation to adduce further proof orarguments.

Another major spin operation last October tried to tie Saddam into the
anthrax letters sent to media organisations and public figures in the USA.
The allegation made the headlines, while the truth - that the letters were
the work of a lone psychopath in New Jersey, probably a one-time US
government scientist - was buried in the small print weeks later.

Al-Qaida and anthrax have both now been discarded as too fragile reeds to
sustain the projected attack on the evil axis. Instead, we are back to
"weapons of mass destruction". This has served as the rationale for the
Anglo-American bombing of Iraq, carried on almost continuously now for more
than three years. Never mind that years of intensive UN inspections found no
evidence of an Iraqi capacity to produce and deliver such weapons, whatever
its intentions. Scott Ritter, ex-deputy head of the UN inspectors, has
declared Iraq "effectively disarmed".

New Labour already has a dismal record with anti-Iraq spin, even by its own
debased standards. Robin Cook, as foreign secretary, made much of the story
of an Iraqi teenager supposedly imprisoned since the age of five for
throwing stones at a portrait of Saddam, only to be forced to backtrack once
it became clear the boy did not exist. There has been a string of such
intelligence-inspired whoppers, from tales of babies thrown out of
incubators to beheaded prostitutes.

None of this is to deny the brutal nature of the Iraqi regime. However, 10
years of US and British sanctions and bombardment have clearly done nothing
whatsoever to shake its foundations. Instead, Anglo-American policy has
heaped new miseries on the Iraqi people, including the deaths of upwards of
half a million children, according to United Nations estimates.

The attack being prepared for later this year will add mightily to that
toll. Tony Blair knows he is virtually alone in the world in supporting
Bush's war, now it can no longer be presented as having any connection with
September 11. Growing numbers of people in Britain want a halt to this "war
on terror". Afghanistan, mourning its own civilian dead, is further away
from stability and tranquillity than ever, while the roots of anti-US
terrorism have been nourished. Nothing has been achieved beyond a major
extension of Washington's strategic power, from Georgia to central Asia to
the Philippines.

Those in power want this war, so we should remember that whatever they say
about their intended victim over the coming months is, to put it at its most
generous, not necessarily going to be true. US Defence Secretary Rumsfeld's
disinformation department has been ostensibly shut down, but its spirit
surely lives on.

·Andrew Murray is chair of the Stop the War Coalition.

C. Mr Bush's 'first friend' should warn him against going to war with Iraq

04 March 2002

Attributed to Edmund Burke, although he never wrote it, one of the
most-quoted and wrong-headed sayings is: "The only thing necessary for the
triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." It all depends on whether
evil is poised to triumph, and on what it is proposed that good men should
do instead.

The Prime Minister set the tone yesterday for his meeting with George Bush
next month by warning that the world must not, in Iraq, repeat the mistake
it made in Afghanistan, which was that it "did nothing" about the threat of
terrorism for too long. It is true that the US and other countries did not
do enough about the al-Qa'ida organisation until last September. But what
was it that they failed to do? Bill Clinton launched a cruise missile strike
on the mountains of Afghanistan at the time he admitted to a relationship
with Monica Lewinsky. In retrospect, US intelligence on the threat from
Osama bin Laden was no mere excuse to distract from presidential
peccadilloes. What was needed, however, was not a single, pointless military
strike, but a sustained intelligence operation to understand al-Qa'ida
better and to anticipate its actions.

Conversely, it is not true that the world has "done nothing" about Saddam
Hussein. Since his forces were expelled from Kuwait, sanctions have been
imposed; much of the Kurdish north has effectively been administered as a
United Nations protectorate; the rest of the country has been subject to
intermittent inspections by UN officials; no-fly zones have been established
to north and south, enforced by bombing. While this campaign of sustained
harassment has inhibited Saddam's ability to develop weapons of mass
destruction, it has done nothing to loosen his grip on the country, and
nothing to ease Arab and Muslim suspicions of US policy in the region. Given
that the policy towards Iraq of the past 12 years has been a qualified
failure, the question is not: Having done nothing, should we now do
something? The implication of that, when juxtaposed with the spurious
"lesson" of Afghanistan, is that the US and its allies should use military
force to topple Saddam's regime. As Tam Dalyell, the free-thinking Labour
MP, points out, the idea that the West might support an uprising by the
Baath party's internal opponents in the same way as it did the Northern
Alliance in Afghanistan is "make believe".

The question ought to be: What policy is more likely than the present one to
restrain and undermine Saddam? The use of military force can be justified in
principle, to enforce the no-fly zones, or against sites to which Saddam
will not allow UN weapons inspectors access. But it is essential that this
is not seen as a purely US action, with the UK of no independent account as
the 51st state. The coalition against Saddam must be renewed first, and a
lifting of non-military trade sanctions would help to persuade other members
of the UN, and especially Arab and Muslim countries, that the US and its
allies have no quarrel with the Iraqi people. Openness and trade is also, in
the long run, the best way to weaken totalitarian regimes.

The rhetoric of "not doing nothing" is useful to a politician such as Tony
Blair. It simplifies policy options in favour of the most active, implying
that to do anything less is to acquiesce in the present terrible state of
affairs. It takes no account of how another bombing campaign might make
things worse, by being seen as an act of aggression by the US against Arabs
or Muslims.

Mr Blair has spoken eloquently in the past of how Arab and Muslim resentment
of US power as the "Great Satan" has inspired al-Qa'ida terrorism. He should
do so again when he meets President Bush in Washington.

D. Blair defends Bush plan for attack on Saddam
By Andrew Grice, Political Editor

04 March 2002

Tony Blair has defended President George Bush's plans to destroy the weapons
of mass destruction built up by Iraq and denied the United States was
isolated on the issue.

The Prime Minister continued his drive to prepare British public and
political opinion for possible military action against Saddam Hussein's
regime by giving his strongest support yet for Washington. He told Channel 9
TV yesterday during his visit to Australia for the Commonwealth summit:
"George Bush is absolutely right to say weapons of mass destruction are a
real danger in the world."

Mr Blair said he would discuss the precise action to be taken over Iraq with
the President when he visits Washington in a few weeks. In another sign that
action is imminent, Downing Street said the Prime Minister wanted to discuss
the issue face-to-face rather than in one of his regular telephone
conversations with Mr Bush.

Although some European countries have severe doubts about taking on Iraq, Mr
Blair insisted it was not just America which was determined to act. He
recalled that he had outlined the need to tackle chemical, biological and
nuclear weapons two days after the 11 September terrorist attacks.

"It is clear that we need to deal with this issue," he said yesterday. "Iraq
is in breach of all the United Nations resolutions on weapons inspectors.

"If these weapons fall into their [Iraqi and terrorist] 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 because, if we don't act, we will find out too late
the potential for destruction."

Iraq's most influential newspaper called Mr Blair "a liar" for accusing Iraq
of acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Babel, the newspaper of President
Saddam's eldest son, Uday, claimed in a front-page editorial that Mr Blair
had refused to accept an Iraqi challenge to send in a team of British arms

Meanwhile, the British Government is resisting plans for the first mission
by the European Union's new rapid reaction force to be in Macedonia, where
Nato's operation is due to end in June.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, has told Downing Street in a leaked
letter that there is "growing pressure" for the EU to take over Nato's work
and that the "political case" for British troops being involved would be

But Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, has warned Number 10
that an EU-led operation would be "premature" and wrong and would risk
stability in the Balkans. The EU force was "not ready to undertake an
operation of this magnitude and risk", he said.

Downing Street denied the Cabinet was split, pointing out that Mr Straw
agreed there were "strong arguments" against an EU force and that Britain
should persist with its effort to build support for a continued Nato


E. Blair warns concerted effort needed to deal with weapons of mass
Financial Times; Mar 4, 2002

Tony Blair raised the stakes yesterday in the international community's
confrontation with Iraq by warning of a concerted effort against states that
seek weapons of mass destruction.

The prime minister hinted that Britain could back US-led military action
against Iraq, insisting that the proliferation of biological, chemical and
nuclear weapons must be stopped.

President George W. Bush raised expectations of military action against Iraq
in January during his State of the Union speech. He said Iraq, Iran and
North Korea were an "axis of evil" because they sought weapons of mass

Mr Blair, asked if Britain would go to war against Saddam Hussein, Iraq's
president, said: "What we do about these weapons of mass destruction, and in
particular about Iraq, is an open issue for discussion. It is clear we need
to deal with this issue."

The prime minister, who will meet Mr Bush in Washington next month for talks
on Iraq, said Mr Saddam had breached United Nations Security Council
resolutions by not allowing weapons inspectors into Iraq.

Mr Blair supported Mr Bush's analysis about Iraq and North Korea, and
indicated that phase two of the campaign against international terrorism
would involve a concerted effort against states seeking weapons of mass

Speaking at the Commonwealth heads of government summit in Coolum, he said:
"The issue of weapons of mass destruction - this is a real issue that is the
next thing on the agenda. This is not something that just the Americans are
talking about. This is something we have got to deal with."

He highlighted how the international community had failed to stop
Afghanistan becoming a base for Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. He said
the world had to act to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass

"If chemical, biological or nuclear capability fell into the wrong hands -
we know what some of these people are capable of. To use as Saddam has
chemical weapons against your own people - just imagine that: thousands of
them being killed. These are not people like us. They are not people who are
democratically elected. They are not people who obey the normal norms of
human behaviour," Mr Blair said.

"If these weapons fall into their hands - and we know they have both the
capability and intention of using them - we have got to act on that. If we
do not act we may find out too late the potential for destruction."

A new UN Security Council resolution on Iraq is expected in May that will
introduce so-called smart sanctions. The resolution would allow more
civilian goods into Iraq, to counter criticism that existing sanctions cause
misery to the country's people, but also introduce tighter controls on
possible military imports.


F. US poised to press Egypt over Iraq action
Financial Times; Mar 4, 2002

US President George W. Bush is likely to use the parlous state of Egypt's
economy to ratchet up pressure on Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian leader, to
support US policies in the Middle East when the two men meet in Washington
tomorrow, diplomats in Cairo said at the weekend.

A likely resumption of US hostilities against Iraq is likely to top the
agenda although it seems that Mr Mubarak has little room for manoeuvre on
the issue.

Egyptians have little affection for Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi leader, but
there is widespread sympathy for the suffering of Iraqi civilians during the
years of US-led sanctions following the first Gulf war in 1991.

Dick Cheney, the US vice-president, is due in Egypt next week as part of an
international tour, which is viewed as paving the way for possible renewed
action against Baghdad.

Also on the agenda in Washington is likely to be the spiralling conflict
between Israel and the Palestinians.

Egypt has voiced support for the peace plan put forward by Crown Prince
Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to break the deadlock of 17 months of violence. But
there is little disguising the fact that Cairo has been a spectator during
the latest round of diplomatic activity.

Washington, however, is likely to expect Egypt to play its traditional
moderating role at an Arab summit in Beirut at the end of March, which will
examine the initiative, diplomats said.

As far as Mr Mubarak is concerned, Egypt currently finds itself in an
unusually weak position in negotiations with Washington.

With a floundering economy, Cairo currently needs all the financial support
it can find. A proposed fast-disbursing, compensatory financing facility
from the International Monetary Fund is making only slow progress, officials

Pressure on the Egyptian pound has eased with the end of the haj pilgrimage
and subsequent holiday period but widespread reports of difficulties in the
payments system persist.

Meanwhile, Muammer Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, has become the first Arab
leader to publicly oppose Prince Abdullah's plan. Mr Gaddafi, speaking on
Saturday, also threatened to leave the Arab League, the umbrella grouping of
22 countries of the Arab world.

The latest outburst by the Libyan leader prompted Amr Moussa, the
secretary-general of the Arab League, to hurry to Libya yesterday to placate
Mr Gadaffi.

Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, who was paying his first official
visit to Lebanon yesterday, also implicitly played down the Saudi initiative
by stressing the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

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