Blair Sees Possible Iraq War, Terror Attack in 2003
By Mike Peacock
LONDON (Reuters - 31 Dec) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair used his New Year message Wednesday to warn of dangerous times ahead that could include war against Iraq and a terror attack on Britain.
He also said the world would not become a safer place unless world leaders revived the Middle East peace process.
"I cannot recall a time when Britain was confronted, simultaneously, by such a range of difficult and in some cases dangerous problems," Blair said.
"Iraq, and the prospect of committing UK troops to action if (Iraqi President) Saddam Hussein continues to flout international law and fails properly to disarm.
"The mass of intelligence flowing across my desk that points to a continuing threat of attack by al Qaeda.
"The lack of progress on the Middle East peace process which has the potential to wreak havoc well beyond that region, and more recently the disturbing developments over North Korea's nuclear program," he said.
The next key date for Iraq is January 27 when U.N. weapons inspectors report back to the Security Council about what signs of weapons of mass destruction they have or have not found.
Blair said Saddam must be disarmed peacefully or, as a last resort, by force.
"Uniquely, he has used them before. He has to be stopped before he does so again," Blair said. "And to rogue states developing and trading in WMD, and terrorist groups who would acquire and use them if they could, the message must go out -- they cannot and will not be allowed to."
MIDDLE EAST FOCUS
Blair said Israeli-Palestinian violence would "continue to cast a dark shadow across the world" unless resolved. "We have to do it quickly...otherwise we are guilty of the very double standards we are accused of," he said.
Blair will hold talks with Palestinian delegates in London later this month in a bid to break the deadlock in Middle East peace-making.
A quartet of Middle East mediators -- the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia -- is putting together an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan. But Gulf tensions and Israel's January 28 election are hampering progress.
"We must focus on moving the process forward: on security, on political reform, on the only viable solution the whole world now supports -- an Israeli state recognized by all and a viable Palestinian state," Blair said.
The prime minister admitted Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, blamed for the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, remained an elusive enemy.
"Loosely organized, operating in many countries, fanatical, extreme with no respect for human life," was his description of the group.
"The threat we face is real but our response must strike the right balance between necessary vigilance against a serious enemy and our determination to preserve our way of life," Blair said.
Before Christmas, a senior government source warned that sooner or later a militant group would probably launch a successful strike against Britain.