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A. Prime minister sheds light on the details, Guardian, 26 July B. Parliament and Iraq, Guardian, 26 July [leading article] C. Blair says Commons vote is unnecessary for attack on Iraq, Independent, 26 July D. Should Britain join an American invasion of Iraq?, Independent, 26 July [opinion piece by Adrian Hamilton] E. Mr Blair and his ministers can enjoy their holidays - but storm clouds are gathering, Independent, 26 July [opinion piece by Steve Richards] F. War on Iraq not imminent, says Blair, Daily Telegraph, 26 July G. Invasion of Iraq is not imminent, says Blair, The Times, 26 July Guardian: firstname.lastname@example.org Independent: email@example.com Daily Telegraph: firstname.lastname@example.org The Times: email@example.com [Letter writers: remember to include your address and telephone number and that the Times require exclusivity for the letters they publish] Most, if not all, of today's coverage relates to Blair's Presidential-style press conference yesterday at which he refused to commit himself to either a Parliamentary vote on - or a UN mandate for - further military action against Iraq. Best wishes, Gabriel ************************************************************* A. Prime minister sheds light on the details Slide show aims to prove Blair's public service commitment Nicholas Watt, political correspondent Friday July 26, 2002 The Guardian Tony Blair yesterday gave a graphic illustration of the minute detail which passed across his desk as he attempted to tackle rising crime and to improve key public services. At his second televised press conference of the year in Downing Street, the prime minister introduced a slide show which demonstrated that he probably devoted more time than any other world leader to issues such as street crime and bed blocking. Appearing in a relaxed mood, the prime minister spent nearly 90 minutes answering questions on issues ranging from trade unions to Iraq. Crime Highlighting his nervousness about improving public services, Mr Blair admitted that he was personally involved in up to half of the work of his public services "delivery unit". Michael Barber, the former education professor who heads the delivery unit, highlighted the enormous challenge facing the government when he unveiled a series of graphs which showed that recorded robbery had shot up. Mr Blair said that he was "bringing the full weight of the centre" to bear down on street crime, adding: "The next few weeks are going to be critical if we are successfully to reverse that rising trend." Alarmed by the rising level of youth crime, with the number of offences committed by 11 to 15-year-olds shooting up, the prime minister announced the extension of a scheme to occupy youngsters over the summer. The "summer splash scheme" would ensure that 48,000 young people between the ages of nine and 17, in 10 "street crime hotspots", would take part in sports and other activities over the summer. Mr Blair's description of his intensive work was designed to demonstrate, as MPs head off on their two-and-a-half-month summer recess, that he was devoting an unprecedented amount of time to public services. Northern Ireland The prime minister indicated that he was losing patience with the Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, who has raised the prospect of abandoning the power sharing executive in the light of IRA violence. Mr Blair, who announced on Wednesday that he would introduce a more rigorous assessment of whether the IRA ceasefire is holding, said that unionists should accept they have gained from the Good Friday agreement. "The idea that unionists have got nothing from this is absurd," he said as he reeled off a list of their gains. These were: securing Northern Ireland's place within the United Kingdom; placing Sinn Fein in a "partitionist assembly"; all parties sitting in a power sharing executive; and persuading the Irish Republic to give up its territorial claim to Northern Ireland. But the prime minister admitted that no side could ever be satisfied. "You do have messy compromises sometimes. You do have grey areas that are very difficult and you have to assess constantly whether you are going one way or another." Trade unions Asked about the recent elections of a series of leftwing union leaders, Mr Blair made clear that there would be no return to the "bad old days" as long as he remained in Downing Street. "My position is totally simple," he said. "We govern for the whole country. The trade unions have a right to be listened to but they don't govern the country. We govern the country because we were elected by the people." Mr Blair, who praised the main trade union leaders for their "cooperative" manner during a meeting last week, indicated that he was not worried by the election of leftwingers such as the RMT's Bob Crow. "You may get the odd trade union leader on a sort of political kick, but I don't think most of them are in that way." The euro To the delight of pro-Europeans, who hope that a referendum on the euro will be held in this parliament, the prime minister confirmed yesterday's Guardian report that he has not postponed a poll. He dismissed the suggestion that the recent volatility in world stock markets could jeopardise a referendum and indicated that the assessment of the five economic tests would be definitive. Some pro-Europeans had feared that Gordon Brown would delay a referendum into the next parliament by announcing there was no definitive proof that the tests had been met. Iraq Unmoved by Labour leftwingers who expressed alarm at the prospect of a military attack against Iraq, Mr Blair indicated that he was prepared to take action without a UN mandate. Insisting that action was not imminent, he said: "What is important is that whatever action we take, should we take action, it is done in accordance with international law. I don't think we can judge the issue of UN resolutions at this present moment in time." Asked how seriously he, as a committed Christian, would take the views of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams - who has voiced opposition to military action against Iraq not sanctioned by a fresh UN resolution - Mr Blair indicated he would be relatively relaxed about the comments of the new head of the Anglican church. Mr Blair said: "He is perfectly entitled to express his views, and why not?" The prime minister also refused to offer MPs a vote on military action. Parliament would be consulted, but he said: "I don't think there is any point in getting into speculation at this point in time about the right way to consult the House of Commons." Conservative Blair The lightest moment of the press conference came when the prime minister was asked whether the 21-year-old Tony Blair would be unhappy with the politics of today's Tony Blair. Momentarily stumped for an answer, Mr Blair said: "No, probably not actually." But he then added: "I think the 21-year-old was probably a little more radical, but that is what 21-year-olds should be. You do, necessarily, as you get older moderate your politics a bit. You also try to make sure that there is a tie-up between the ideals and the practice." ************************************************** B. Parliament and Iraq Blair must be accountable not evasive Friday July 26, 2002 The Guardian It was a sign of the times that the first two questions that were posed to Tony Blair at his latest Downing Street press conference yesterday concerned Iraq. It was a sign which, having urged a wide national debate on the Iraq issue, we greatly welcome. Would that we could say the same about the answers. On Wednesday, in the final prime minister's question time before the summer recess, three MPs had asked Mr Blair for reassurances on parliament's role in the event of hostilities against Iraq. On each occasion, Mr Blair gave replies that left room for uncertainty. Parliament would be "properly consulted", Mr Blair said, but without saying at what point of the process the "consultation" - whatever that means precisely in any case - would take place. In one answer, he even appeared to say that a decision to commit British troops against Iraq would be taken before any parliamentary discussion of the subject. Quite rightly, Iraq was again the first item on the questioners' agenda in Downing Street yesterday. Yet Mr Blair's answers were no more clear in response to the journalists than they were the previous day when he was quizzed by MPs. Asked why he had declined to promise MPs a vote on Iraq, Mr Blair said it was important to follow precedent, but that such a discussion about procedure was premature. Later, Mr Blair tried to extend his room for manoeuvre even further by saying that he was not going to pin himself to any specific form of consultation on the issue of Iraq. Mr Blair has been making serious and welcome efforts recently to make himself and his government more accountable to parliament and to the public (yesterday's press conference was one example of the process). But he is being far too evasive here, and he should not be surprised that suspicions about his intentions are growing. In fact, there are clear principles and precedents for Mr Blair and parliament to follow, and the prime minister should have committed himself explicitly to them. Here's what should happen. First, Mr Blair should make clear that parliament will be kept informed at every stage about important developments in regard to Iraq; in particular, he should keep the cabinet, the other party leaders and senior backbench officials, as well as the Speaker, fully briefed through the recess. Second, there should be no hesitation about recalling parliament if and as soon as events with regard to Iraq warrant it. Third, the recall should not necessarily be limited to a single day, as it was when parliament was recalled after September 11; the government must be prepared to be continually accountable to MPs. Fourth, the government should allow both Houses to vote on policy towards Iraq. Fifth, no decision to commit British troops should be taken before parliament has had its chance to debate that possibility. This is not the kind of crisis in which such decisions need to be made before parliament can debate them. On the contrary, much of the mobilisation against Iraq is extremely foreseeable, as this week's exchanges clearly show. None of these proposals is especially novel. All are based on precedent. It is another sign of the times that Mr Blair is so cagey about committing himself to such plain and straightforward lines of accountability if events warrant it. It may well be that events will not; it was perfectly fair of the prime minister to warn yesterday against "getting a bit ahead of ourselves" on Iraq. But true accountability deserves no less. And so does true political wisdom. For Mr Blair is going to need all the support he can get. *************************************************************** C. Blair says Commons vote is unnecessary for attack on Iraq By Paul Waugh, Deputy Political Editor Independent 26 July 2002 Blair says Commons vote is unnecessary for attack on Iraq Adrian Hamilton: Should Britain join an American invasion of Iraq? Steve Richards: Mr Blair and his ministers can enjoy their holidays - but storm clouds are gathering Tony Blair fuelled simmering discontent among Labour MPs yesterday when he made it clear that Britain could back an attack on Iraq without a fresh mandate from the UN or a vote in Parliament. Speaking at his second set-piece press conference at Downing Street, the Prime Minister said action against Saddam Hussein was "not imminent" but he made no effort to rule it out. In the wide-ranging, 90-minute briefing, Mr Blair also stressed that plummeting stock markets would not affect his determination to join the euro and admitted that the UK military base in Gibraltar could be shared with Spain. Labour backbenchers have warned that any British support for a US-backed invasion of Iraq would trigger the biggest rebellion Mr Blair has faced since he became leader. The issue dominated Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday when three Labour MPs, including the former defence minister Peter Kilfoyle, urged Mr Blair to consult the Commons before any strikes. But Mr Blair insisted yesterday that he would follow previous practice on action in Kosovo and Afghanistan, where MPs were not given a vote beforehand. Asked why he had consistently declined to promise such a vote, Mr Blair said: "Because it's important that if we do get to that situation that we follow the precedents there have always been ... I am not going to pin myself at this stage to any specific form of consultation. "I actually think we are all getting a bit ahead of ourselves on the issue of Iraq. As I have said before, action is not imminent; we are not at the point of decision yet." Mr Blair added that Rowan Williams, the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury, was "perfectly entitled" to say he could not support military action unless it was sanctioned by a new UN resolution. Any action would be taken in accordance with international law, but President Saddam had already breached 23 UN resolutions, many of which covered weapons of mass destruction, he said. The Iraqi regime's arms programme was uncovered during the Gulf war and extensively documented by inspectors before their expulsion, according to Mr Blair: "We can publish more evidence later and if it is appropriate we will. But actually there is already an enormous amount of accumulated evidence of what Iraq was up to," he said. As if to underline his commitment to military action, Mr Blair said he was sceptical as to whether the efforts of the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, to persuade the Iraqis to readmit weapons inspectors would succeed. "The omens don't look very good frankly. The issue is: is there any point in reviving those negotiations; I don't know, because it seems somewhat unlikely that the Iraqis intend to comply with it." Labour backbench MP Paul Flynn said Mr Blair's remarks were "very worrying to many Labour MPs and to people outside politics". He told Radio 4's World at One: "We might be engaging in a war, not with a man who lives in a cave, but with the leader of a sophisticated modern state and who certainly possesses, if not nuclear weapons, then biological and chemical weapons." He said Mr Blair would be wise to listen to Dr Williams rather than President Bush. During the 90-minute question-and-answer session, the Prime Minister said that falling stock markets would not affect his assessment of Britain's entry to the euro. The "fundamentals" of the argument would not be influenced by the state of stocks and shares, just as they were not affected by the fluctuations in the currency markets, he said. Scotching suggestions that he had abandoned having a referendum on the euro until after the next general election, Mr Blair said he was not in favour of a "rolling" review of the five economic tests if they were not met by next June. On a lighter note, Mr Blair admitted that he was not as radical today as he had been in his youth. He was no less idealistic but he was more pragmatic, he said. ************************************************************* D. Should Britain join an American invasion of Iraq? When push comes to shove, Blair is going to commit our troops to whatever venture America decides upon by Adrian Hamilton Independent 26 July 2002 The Prime Minister would have us believe that to discuss the option of direct intervention in Iraq would be not only unproductive but actually wrong at this time. No decision, he argued once again yesterday, has been made. So any debate in Parliament, let alone any revelation of government thinking, would be pointless. No it isn't. It is precisely now, before decisions are made, that we should be discussing Iraq and Parliament should be allowed its say. To wait until decisions are made will be too late. Any debate will be dismissed as inappropriate when the lives of our boys are at stake. Of course, one of the reasons why Tony Blair doesn't want to discuss it at the moment is that he doesn't want to do anything to embarrass our relations with the US. It's still possible that the whole problem could just go away, so why rock the boat? On this question, however, he is entirely in the hands of Washington. The Prime Minister may or may not be sympathetic himself to the idea of intervening to topple Saddam Hussein – and one suspects that Blair's natural instincts are pretty militaristic on this as on Kosovo – but when push comes to shove, he is going to commit British troops to whatever venture America decides upon. No one should doubt the seriousness of that option. For British and American troops to go to war against another country specifically to unseat its government is a breach of every international convention. For a Western army to march deliberately on to Arab soil would arouse a wave of protest and street feeling in the Middle East whose effects could be catastrophic. And then how would you govern Iraq once you had changed the regime? Almost everyone accepts that a change in regime would be a welcome development. On that at least Washington has the full support of world opinion, including the whole of the Middle East. Saddam is a peculiarly nasty dictator who stands in breach of over a dozen UN resolutions trying to tether him since the Gulf War. Given half a chance he would develop weapons of mass destruction with which to threaten his neighbours (although there is still some dispute as to whether he has developed any). Nor is there anyone who thinks that the present policy of containment through sanctions and aerial patrolling is satisfactory as a long term means of controlling the beast. It has kept him caged but at immense cost in civilian lives and Arab public opinion. But it is a huge jump from concurring on that to taking direct action to bring him down. All the considerations that prevented the Allies bringing the Gulf war to a successful conclusion in Baghdad still obtain, even more so. In contrast to its experience in Afghanistan, the US cannot use air power alone to change the balance on the ground in favour of opposition forces. There is no Northern Alliance ready to take over Iraq. There are the separatist forces of Kurds in the north and the Shia in the south. But then you are in the game of dismembering Iraq to the consternation of America's allies Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The democratic opposition is weak and divided. Everything that the Allies have done so far to contain Saddam in the way of sanctions and air strikes has served to increase his power and his standing as a victim through the Middle East. And all this is quite aside from the morality of intervening directly to topple a regime because you dislike it. The Allies didn't do that even in the case of Slobodan Milosevic. It is the practical problems rather than the moral ones that hold back Washington at the moment. If it could have found effective allies on the ground, it would have sent in the bombers months ago. It would still hope, no doubt, to do a deal with the generals in Baghdad to topple their President or to assassinate the man, would that were possible. But if it is not, and if Saddam should still prove unwilling to allow in UN inspectors (as seems to be the case), then the Pentagon is prepared to send in a strike force of troops as well as missiles. This is where the Europeans, and many in Britain, would part company with the US. It's not just a question of morality or legality, it is a question of how you define the nature of the threat of 11 September. For the Americans, the primary threat to security remains that from rogue states left by the Cold War with the resources and the technology to launch attacks on the US. Change the regimes in Iraq and Iran and you improve your safety. For the Europeans, the security threat comes from the bitter regional conflicts exposed by the end of the Cold War. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the source of terrorism, not Iraq. In attacking Iraq, you threaten to ignite anti-Western sentiments throughout the Middle East. For the Americans, the pursuit of objectives through international agreement is a secondary consideration to achieving national security. To the Europeans it has become all-important. Tony Blair may choose to dismiss these differences as minor when set against the overarching principles of trans-Atlantic co-operation. Others would say that the issue of Iraq poses precisely the question of right or wrong that the Prime Minister said in his press conference yesterday should determine Britain's stance towards the world. ******************************************************** E. Mr Blair and his ministers can enjoy their holidays - but storm clouds are gathering This curious calm cannot last. There are two issues looming in the autumn and winter that will change everything by Steve Richards Independent 26 July 2002 The political season ends with the Government more dominant and confident than it has ever been. Tony Blair performs before journalists at Downing Street press conferences, or in front of a select committee of MPs, with good-humoured authority. The Conservatives are in disarray, falling out over who is up or down in the court of their inexperienced leader. The Liberal Democrats are nowhere to be seen, making headlines only when their leader is asked on TV about his drinking habits. Not for a decade have a Prime Minister and his senior ministers seemed so at ease with power. Even a year ago, after Labour's second landslide, the Government still seemed uncertain and insecure. Tony Blair gave the impression that he did not know what to do with his victory, as if winning for a second time was an end in itself. In perverse contrast, the Conservatives were animated, almost as if they had won the election. For a few weeks they seemed to matter hugely as they went about electing a new leader. Now they are almost irrelevant again, getting into a state only over weighty matters such as whether the former party chairman could be contacted at his holiday home in Florida. While they fall out aimlessly, some ministers have learnt the art of governing. They are no longer dependent on the different art of appearing to govern. In this second term Mr Blair came to life after 11 September, but from a domestic perspective the more significant events have been the Budget and the Comprehensive Spending Review. They gave the Government a sense of direction and purpose it had previously lacked. Almost imperceptibly, this has brought about a significant change. Ministers no longer behave like insecure impostors, awaiting a return to the natural order of things in which the Conservatives rule and Labour loses elections. The build-up to Gordon Brown's Comprehensive Spending Review was an example of the new maturity. There were no headline-grabbing gimmicks, no leaks in advance that failed to materialise on the day. There was no need. The genuinely weighty statement was enough in itself. So Mr Blair and his colleagues head off for their holidays this weekend in a stronger position, and feeling, with good cause, more self-confident than ever. And yet this curious calm cannot last. There is no question about this. There are two issues looming in the autumn and winter that will change everything, however the Government decides to deal with them. The first is the possibility of military action against Iraq, the subject of many portentous questions at yesterday's Downing Street press conference. Mr Blair faces a dilemma over Iraq that is without an obvious solution. At its most basic, he does not have the support for military action among Labour MPs, at least at the moment. The former Cabinet minister, Chris Smith, is an interesting barometer. Normally ultra-loyal, Mr Smith has spoken out firmly against a military attack. Recently I asked him whether his public concern symbolised a wider discontent over the direction of government policy. He was quite emphatic. It was just Iraq that was alarming normally supportive MPs. At cabinet level, Clare Short has made her doubts known several times in public. It is possible she would resign if there was an attack. Those who know her well say that she is almost visibly preparing herself for such a traumatic moment. Here is minister committed to most aspects of government policy and benefiting from a substantial increase in her aid budget. Iraq could place her on the backbenches, a powerful rebel rather than a minister crusading against global poverty. Yet Mr Blair would be severely weakened if he decided against military action. He has been gripped by the importance of his relationship with Mr Bush since the presidential election last year. At the time, he told aides, ministers, and anyone who cared to listen, that he was determined to have as close a relationship with the Republican President as he managed with Bill Clinton. To the bewilderment of some, he placed the creation of a "special relationship" with President Bush at the top of his second-term objectives, along with public services and Europe. He would be letting down his US allies and his own instincts if he did not co-operate with a military strike against Saddam. A minister who has been involved in internal discussions about Iraq tells me of a way around this conundrum. He claims that the threat of military action could be enough in itself to contain Saddam. He even dares to suggest that it is already starting to work. Perhaps that is what Mr Blair meant when he told yesterday's Downing Street press conference that "You are getting ahead of yourselves on Iraq." That was his only substantial comment, implying that a decision was some way off and that military action is not the only option. It is unlikely, but not impossible, that the US could decide against military action on the basis that the threat alone is doing the trick. For Mr Blair, there is no similar way out on the euro. The issue has been with us for so long we almost take it for granted: "Here it is again, the good old euro. In or out? Shake it all about." But we should never underestimate Europe or the euro's capacity to reshape British politics entirely. It has done so before and it will do so again. In the early winter, Mr Blair and Mr Brown will decide whether or not the economic tests have been met. That decision changes everything. Mr Blair will be unavoidably weakened if they decide that the tests (including the pivotal unofficial "sixth test" over whether a referendum is winnable) have not been met. He has staked much on "ending Britain's ambiguous relationship with Europe". A negative verdict would reinforce the ambiguity and allow Mr Duncan Smith to claim a victory. A positive verdict would be even more dramatic. The subsequent referendum (a date has been earmarked in Downing Street for October next year) would be decisive either way. I cannot see how Mr Blair – and possibly Mr Brown – could survive a "no" vote in a referendum. A "yes" vote would have the paradoxical impact of being both an historic triumph for Mr Blair and the start of the Conservatives' recovery, finally purging the party of its obsessive Euroscepticism. At the beginning of the column I wrote that there had not been such a mid-year calm for a decade. That takes us back to the summer of 1992. On this very date 10 years ago, John Major held a drinks party for lobby journalists in the garden of 10 Downing Street. The sun shone, Mr Major looked more relaxed and in control than ever before, having won an election a few months earlier. A demoralised Labour party was in disarray. Within months, Britain was out of the ERM, a distraught Mr Major was battling to make the Maastricht Treaty become law, and the political map was redrawn. The current Government is not necessarily facing anything as cataclysmic as that. But volcanic events are looming. Mr Blair should enjoy the calm while it lasts. ********************************************************* F. War on Iraq not imminent, says Blair By George Jones, Political Editor Daily Telegraph (Filed: 26/07/2002) Tony Blair played down the prospect of an early attack on Iraq yesterday but repeatedly refused to give a commitment to allow the Commons a vote before British forces were involved in a new Gulf war. He used his second Downing Street press conference to attempt to calm fears in the Labour Party that Britain could be drawn into a US-led conflict before Parliament returns from the long summer recess in October. Mr Blair said he would not pin himself to any specific form of consultation. He said: "We are all getting a bit ahead of ourselves on the issue of Iraq. Action is not imminent, we are not at the point of decision yet. "There are many issues to be considered before we are at the point of decision." He did give warning that dealing with weapons of mass destruction was the next step in the war against terrorism. But Britain and the United States were not ready to release a promised dossier on Saddam Hussein's weapons capability. Mr Blair said it would make a difference if Saddam let weapons inspectors back into Iraq unconditionally. But he saw no sign of that happening. Asked how seriously he would take the views of the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams - who has voiced opposition to military action against Iraq not sanctioned by a fresh UN resolution - Mr Blair indicated that he would be relatively relaxed. "He is perfectly entitled to express his views, and why not," he said. The next prime ministerial press conference will be in Mr Blair's Sedgefield, Co Durham, constituency, in early September. The presidential-style press conferences are part of efforts to show that the Government is being more open and is no longer obsessed with "spin". Mr Blair has put in an appearance at Parliament almost every day for the past fortnight. Yesterday he appeared relaxed and confident, handling questions ranging from the British class system to the future of Gibraltar, on the first day of a 12-week summer recess. Mr Blair said the volatility of the stock market would not affect the Government's decision next year about whether Britain should join Europe's single currency. He indicated that the possibility of joining the euro next year remained under active consideration. "I don't think it makes a difference. What is important is to recognise the fundamentals are strong," he said. Mr Blair said he did not think that stock market turbulence affected the euro case. "You can't judge this on a day-to-day movement of the exchange rate neither can you judge it on day-to-day movements in the stock market." Mr Blair's comments followed renewed speculation that the Government is considering holding a referendum on the euro next year. The Prime Minister is said to be convinced that large sections of British public opinion are open to persuasion of the case for the single currency despite opinion polls showing that a majority are opposed to scrapping the pound. He refused to be drawn on the timing of a decision on the five economic tests for Britain joining the euro, beyond promising that it would be announced by the deadline of next June. However, Mr Blair indicated that it would be a decisive assessment on whether Britain had met all five tests. He refused to rule out holding a referendum in May 2003, despite a warning from the Electoral Commission that it could clash with elections for the devolved Parliament and Assembly in Scotland and Wales. He said a decision on timing would be taken later. Mr Blair rejected suggestions that recent Stock Market falls could threaten public services investment. "We believe the spending proposals are entirely affordable," he said. "Actually the Treasury have done all this on the basis of the most cautious assumptions, so there is a lot of leeway built into the forecasts we have made." Earlier, Mr Blair revealed the extent to which he has centralised power in Downing Street to enable him to intervene in the detailed delivery of key public services. He has effectively taken charge of the Government's efforts to tackle street crime and curb the inflow of asylum seekers into Britain. Mr Blair used slides to illustrate the work of the No 10 delivery unit in dealing with failing schools, hospital waiting lists, and robbery and street crime in London and other metropolitan areas. The delivery unit operates a four-level system of intensity for dealing with major policy difficulties, with levels three and four involving a prominent role for the Prime Minister. Level three, which involved "substantial commitments" of his own time, had been activated over the handling of asylum applications. "Level four comes into action when a problem is serious enough for the relevant minister and myself to instigate a high intensity drive, led by me and co-ordinated at the centre. That is the approach we have taken in relation to street crime," Mr Blair said. He repeated his pledge to have street crime "under control" by the end of September. He said the next few weeks would be critical because many youngsters, who are mainly responsible for the surge in street crime, would be on school holidays. ******************************************************* G. Invasion of Iraq is not imminent, says Blair By Philip Webster, Political Editor The Times 26 July TONY BLAIR went out of his way to dampen expectations of an imminent attack on Iraq yesterday as it emerged that he has little idea of American intentions. In response to persistent questioning at a Downing Street press conference, he said that “we are all getting ahead of ourselves on the issue of Iraq. Action is not imminent. We are not at the point of decision yet.” At the same time Cabinet sources disclosed that Mr Blair saw little point in becoming embroiled in a Labour Party row over Iraq when it was not at all clear what the Americans intended. A source said: “George Bush is not sure yet what will happen, so let us see what is proposed from them before we get into trouble here.” Another said: “Blair has not been told what will happen, so he sees no point in addressing this issue now.” Mr Blair, who knows that he faces a backbench revolt if he signs up to military action, was careful not to commit himself to a Commons vote before conflict starts. Asked why he has consistently declined to promise such a vote, Mr Blair said: “Because it’s important that if we do get to that situation that we follow the precedents there have always been. “I don’t think there is any point in getting into speculation at this point in time about the right way to consult the House of Commons.” Mr Blair said that he was sceptical as to whether the efforts of the UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan to persuade the Iraqis to readmit weapons inspectors would succeed. “The omens don’t look very good frankly. The issue is, is there any point in reviving those negotiations. I don’t know. Because it seems somewhat unlikely that the Iraqis intend to comply with it.” Asked how seriously he, as a committed Christian, would take the views of the new Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams — who has voiced opposition to military action against Iraq not sanctioned by a fresh UN resolution — Mr Blair indicated that he would be relatively relaxed about the comments of the new head of the Anglican Church. Mr Blair said: “He is perfectly entitled to express his views, and why not.” During the 80-minute press conference Mr Blair defended British arms sales to Israel and insisted that the Government had no intention of jeopardising defence industry jobs. Asked how he could justify the doubling of arms sales to Jerusalem over the past two years he said: “I justify it very simply . . . if we want to stop the defence industry operating in this country, we can do so. The result incidentally would be that someone else supplies the arms that we supply. “We have actually tightened the criteria on export control of the sale of arms, tightened them considerably here and in Europe as well.” Mr Blair went on: “But there are roughly 100,000 jobs in this country that depend on defence or associated industries, and I simply don’t agree with shutting that industry down.” He dismissed criticisms of the sale to the US of British-made head-up displays for F16 fighters. The aircraft are to be sold on to Israel. He said: “Once you start saying that you are not going to supply parts to the United States . . . once you say you are withdrawing from that on the basis that these weapons might be sold at some point to Israel or indeed to any other country, I’m afraid the practical reality is . . . what would actually happen is not that the parts wouldn’t be supplied, but that you would find every other defence industry in the world rushing in to take the place that we had vacated.” He said that Britain would do everything that it could to help people affected by the famine in southern Africa. “We will do all we can to work with the governments there, in so far as we can co-operate with the governments there. “And we will also try and urge the same type of action both in Europe and elsewhere, with other major countries in the world. “But this is a very very serious situation. And it is truly a tragedy, at a time when there are actually some signs of hope in Africa, over Angola, over the Sudan, over the agreement that has just been brokered in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it is a genuine tragedy that this natural disaster has been visited upon people in southern Africa.” The Prime Minister also said that Ken Livingstone’s attempt to rejoin the Labour Party had been rejected because he was not trusted to abide by the party’s rules. The Prime Minister will stage the next of his presidential-style press conferences in Sedgefield in September. He is travelling to Johannesburg for the world summit on sustainable development in September and on his return will meet the press in his constituency. ****************************************************** _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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