Tony Blair Breakfast with Frost


Tony Blair

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Specially chosen programmes from the BBC Archive.

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For this collection, Sir Michael Parkinson has selected

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BBC interviews with influential figures of the 20th century.

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More programmes on this theme, and other BBC Four Collections,

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are available on BBC iPlayer.

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And now the news is that the Prime Minister is here.

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- Good morning, Prime Minister. - Morning, David.

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From the reports in all the papers today - this headline says,

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"US gives Blix more time but edges closer to conflict" -

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do I gather from this that we in Britain would agree with that,

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and that we are prepared if the inspectors tomorrow say

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they haven't had time to complete the job satisfactorily,

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we would give them further time, whether weeks or months?

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They've got to be given the time to do the job,

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but it's important to define what the job is,

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because this is where I think a lot of confusion comes in.

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The job of the inspectors is to certify

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whether Saddam is co-operating or not with the UN inspections regime.

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And that duty to co-operate doesn't just mean that he has to give them

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access to a particular site,

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it means he's got to co-operate fully

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in saying exactly what weapons material he has,

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allowing the inspectors to inspect it,

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monitor it then shut it down.

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So we would give him extra time?

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Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei?

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We've gone down the UN route precisely because the inspectors have

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got to be the means of trying to resolve this peacefully.

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If the inspectors are able to their job, fine,

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but if they're not able to do their job then we have to disarm

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Saddam by force, and that's always been the choice.

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But we would give them extra time, the inspectors, if they need it?

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Space and time, time and space, you said?

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Of course. I've always said the inspectors should have the time

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to do their job, but what's important is that their job is not

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to repeat what happened in the 1990s.

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What happened in the 1990s is, in April '91,

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when the first Resolution was passed, saying Saddam must disarm,

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he was then supposed to give 15 days' notice of a declaration of

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everything he had, and the inspectors were then to go in and shut it down.

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Now, we've been almost 12 years waiting for him to do that.

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So the time the inspectors need is not time to play

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a game of hide-and-seek with Saddam, where they go in and try

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and find the stuff, and he tries to conceal it.

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The objective of the inspectors is on the basis of a full

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and honest declaration by Saddam of what he has,

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then to shut it down, and so the time they need is in order to certify

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whether he's fully co-operating or not.

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And they should have that time,

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whether it's weeks or even if it's months?

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I don't believe it'll take them weeks...months, rather, to find

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out whether he's co-operating or not, but they should have whatever

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time they need, and we've said that right from the very beginning.

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One of the interesting things about this -

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I heard your report earlier when your correspondent

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was saying war is inevitable - war is not inevitable.

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It depends on Saddam.

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If he co-operates with the inspectors,

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if he says how much material he's got,

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if he co-operates fully with them in allowing them not just access

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but telling them what material he has and allowing them

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then to shut it down and make Iraq safe

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and free of weapons of mass destruction - chemical,

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biological, potentially nuclear - then the issue's over,

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but he's not doing that at the moment.

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That's very clear.

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But I mean, the thing is that we were told,

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we were given to understand that what these inspectors were

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going to come up with was evidence of weapons of mass destruction

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chemical, biological and nuclear.

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Compared to that,

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which obviously is a reason for war or military action,

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these rather pale things, the non-compliance, the shells,

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Blix's men sent on hide-and-seek missions, Iraqi scientists

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not agreeing to an interview unless an Iraqi person was there,

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that all sounds the reason for a stiff rebuke, not a war.

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No. I mean, I profoundly disagree with this idea that somehow Saddam

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refuses to co-operate, then that's OK. That's of a lesser order.

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Look, what we know is that he has this material.

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From what was left over in 1998, for example,

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we know there's something like 350 tonnes of chemical warfare agent.

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We know that there is something like 30,000 special munitions

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for the delivery of chemical and biological weapons.

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He hasn't even told us where those old leftovers from 1998 are.

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Now, what we know Saddam is doing is that there's an elaborate

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process, an infrastructure if you like, of concealment,

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where he's putting the stuff out into different parts of the country,

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concealing it, where he's saying, for example,

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that the people that the inspectors want to interview,

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because that's one of this duties, to allow people to be interviewed,

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these people are being told by the Iraqi authorities

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they can only come for interview with an Iraqi so-called minder

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and only be interviewed in certain places,

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and we know also, from intelligence, that these

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people's families are being told that if they co-operate

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and give any information at all, they'll be executed.

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Now, if he fails to co-operate in being honest, and he is pursuing

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a programme of concealment, that is every bit as much

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a breach as finding, for example, a missile or the chemical agent.

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One of the papers here says that you may prepare another dossier

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because the first one didn't have a lot of impact, and so on,

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but what are the sort of things you can tell us now that

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our intelligence has discovered that you'll be passing on to the world?

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What... Do you have a killer fact?

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What we have is the intelligence that says that Saddam has continued

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to develop these weapons of mass destruction,

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that what he's doing is using a whole lot of dual-use facilities

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in order to manufacture chemical and biological weapons,

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and what we know is that there is an elaborate

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programme of concealment, as I say,

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that is pushing this stuff into different parts of the country

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and therefore forcing the inspectors to play a game of hide-and-seek.

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And what I say to people emphatically is that the UN mandate, set out in

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the UN Resolution in November,

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is a UN mandate that says that Saddam must not just give access to

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different sites but co-operate fully with the inspectors,

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otherwise the thing is a charade with the inspectors,

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who aren't after all a detective agency. They're experts in munitions.

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Do you think at the moment we have, you have,

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in the light of the things you said,

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actually sufficient evidence, if you wish to,

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to go to war tomorrow, if you weren't waiting for the UN?

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Do you think you have the goods on him now?

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Sufficient to back action?

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Well, I've got no doubt at all that he's developing these weapons

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and that he poses a threat,

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but we made a choice to go down the UN route,

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and we're pursuing that UN route, and we'll stick with the UN route.

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I mean... Again, when people say to me...

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I had someone, as I was going into a building the other day,

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someone shouted out to me, "Stop the war!"

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And I said, "I haven't started it."

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We're not at war,

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and what we've laid down is a process that has to be gone through

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where there is a UN mandate given to the inspectors,

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the inspectors have got to fulfil that mandate,

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and our judgment, the American judgment,

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of course is that Saddam has these weapons,

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but the purpose of the inspectors going in is for the inspectors

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then, as, if you like, the objective party, to report back the UN

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and say either he is fully co-operating or he's not.

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So do we need, require...or would prefer a second resolution?

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Of course we want a second resolution,

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and there is only one set of circumstances

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in which I've said that we would move without one,

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and so all this stuff that we're indifferent

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as to whether there's a UN resolution or not is nonsense.

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We're very focused on getting a UN resolution.

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There is one set of circumstances...

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- Just the one? - Just the one.

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And that is the circumstances where the UN inspectors say,

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"He's not co-operating

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"and he's in breach of the resolution that was passed in November,"

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but the UN, because someone, say, unreasonably exercises their veto,

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blocks a new resolution.

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Now, in those circumstances, you damage the UN.

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If the UN inspectors say, "He's not co-operating, he's in breach,"

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and the world does nothing about it.

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But I don't believe that will happen.

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I think that if there is a finding by the inspectors,

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and Monday's report is just the first full report,

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there will be other reports,

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but if they find that he's not co-operating,

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then I believe that a second resolution will issue.

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And again, just to stress the importance of this...

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..if we end up with this issue of weapons of mass destruction,

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which I think is a huge question facing the world today,

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I think this and international terrorism

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are the two big security threats,

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if we face an issue where around Iraq -

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that is a country that has used weapons of mass destruction -

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the UN comes to a position

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and says, "You've got to disarm yourself of those weapons,"

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and then the UN does nothing about the failure to disarm, well,

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how, when we deal with North Korea,

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are we going to get them to treat us seriously?

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How, when we take these issues out to other countries

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that are developing, potentially, nuclear capability,

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are they going to take the international community seriously

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when, faced with the challenge of Iraq, we've done nothing?

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And what about the situation of persuading the people?

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As you will have seen today, the NewGov poll - this is

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in the situation where we go ahead, of course, without UN blessing...

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Of course.

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..and in that situation, 23% minus,

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was the situation in September, minus 23 in favour of no,

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and now it's gone up to 20/73,

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ie 53, more than doubled the opposition to that situation.

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How are you... How can you get through the message to those people?

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You hope, of course, you won't go ahead without UN blessing,

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but if you did, how would you try and convert...

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Because it's very, to put it mildly,

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uncomfortable to go to war with 73% against.

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Yes, but again, I think this is because if people are being

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asked today, "Do you support a war?",

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my answer to that is, "We're not at war today."

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And the circumstances in which we would engage in conflict

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are circumstances which haven't yet arisen.

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They are circumstances in which the UN inspectors say,

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"He's supposed to co-operate with us and he's not co-operating.

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"For example, he's refusing to allow us to interview the right people.

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"He's refusing to tell us exactly what's happened to

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"the weaponry that he has," and in those circumstances,

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I think especially if the UN pass the second resolution,

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as I believe they will

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if the inspectors carry on saying he's not co-operating,

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I think public opinion's in a different place.

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I do make this point quite strongly to people -

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were it not for the stand we have taken,

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does anyone seriously think we'd either

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have the UN inspectors in there

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or any chance of resolving this peacefully?

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But at the moment, you do have 75% of the public,

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you've united all our quarrelling clerics in this country,

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they're all against you, and no Muslim leader has come out in favour.

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It's a tough, tough road to hoe.

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Well, it is tough, and it's tough for a very simple reason,

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that people don't see an immediate threat arising from Saddam

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and it's my job as Prime Minister to say to people,

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there may not be an immediate threat in the sense that Saddam's

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about to launch a strike against Britain,

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but this issue of weapons of mass destruction is a huge question

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for the world because we know that countries are trying to develop

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chemical, biological and nuclear weapons,

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these are highly unstable states,

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we know this stuff is being traded across

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international frontiers at the moment,

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we know that international terrorist groups -

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and this is the link with terrorism -

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are trying to acquire these weapons. Unless we take a stand,

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then we will find in years to come, it is very much more difficult

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to deal with this issue, and I think it is only a matter of time

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before international terrorism and these types of weapons come together.

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I mean, you know, you can already see from the arrests

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that are happening right round Europe -

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these terrorist groups will use chemical weapons if they can.

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They don't have the capability at the moment

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to cause enormous damage with those but if could do so, they would.

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Colin Powell said in an interview with me some time ago,

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back in September or whatever,

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and he's said it since,

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that the important thing is not knowing when to start a war,

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it's knowing how to end it.

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Now, what are we going to do if we get to Baghdad,

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if we're victorious, um, what happens then?

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How are we going to end it?

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Are we going to set up a UN protectorate or what?

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We must know that, obviously.

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Well, we don't know the precise details of all that.

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That's something to discuss with the UN, with allies, obviously,

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but what we do know is that it should be a stable government

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that tries to release Iraq from what is, frankly,

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the appalling situation Saddam's put it in.

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Cos remember, partly as a result of the fact

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we've been unable to contain Saddam any other way,

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the world has had to impose through the UN sanctions on Iraq which,

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because of the way Saddam operates those sanctions,

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have meant terrible misery and exploitation

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for millions of Iraqi people. So, you know, that's why I...

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You know, you mentioned the clerics a short time ago.

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I've always found it odd that anybody,

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particularly people who are, if you like, are more on the centre-left,

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could ever dispute the fact that getting rid of Saddam

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would be a huge bonus for the world.

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The Archbishop of Canterbury said

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that it's in violation of Christian moral teaching.

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That was the man you made Archbishop of Canterbury.

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Well, then it's his... As I always say to people,

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it's his right to speak out as he wants.

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But I think it would be...

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certainly a violation of our duty to protect the world

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if we, having laid down the law, through the UN, to Saddam,

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then walked away from it.

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You must be annoyed, obviously, with Chirac and Schroeder

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on this particular issue.

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I mean, you must sometimes think, "God, why didn't we join NAFTA?"

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No, I don't think that, no.

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I mean, they're entitled to different views

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but, you know, French foreign policy

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no more represents European foreign policy, exclusively,

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than does British foreign policy. Countries have different positions.

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But not all European countries are in that position.

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Spain, Italy, other European countries

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have strongly supported the stand we've taken.

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Fear of Israel. They've made it clear

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that if they're attacked by Saddam, they'll nuke him back.

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Are you worried about what that would do?

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Well, one of the reasons why we're taking this action

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is that if Saddam is allowed to build up these weapons,

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then of course he will threaten his neighbours. He's done it before.

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But it is extremely important that we make sure

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that we reduce whatever possibility there is of any conflict

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we're engaged in spreading.

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Incidentally, one...

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I mean, if there is any advantage in what Saddam has done,

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which is to try and dismantle the programme

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and push it out and conceal it in different parts of the country

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is that it's more difficult for him to bring it together.

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But, I mean, would you give him a warning,

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rather like the warning that then President Bush did in the Gulf War,

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that if he was to use any of these weapons which we say he's got,

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that we would use nuclear weapons?

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I don't think any warnings we give are best done in a public way,

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and in any event,

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we'll consider that situation when we get nearer the point of action,

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if action there needs to be,

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but, as I say, just to come back to the basic point I'm making,

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Saddam could avoid a war today

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if he made an honest, full declaration of the material he has.

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"Know thine enemy" - that was another phrase that Colin Powell once said.

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Obviously, we have psychological profiles and everything,

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you're trying to assess and second-guess

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what Saddam will do next and so on.

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Do you think you are dealing with a man who is mad...

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..or bad?

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Well, bad, certainly.

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- I mean, anybody... - Mad?

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I'm not in a position to judge that.

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I mean, he's exercised considerable skill, actually,

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in avoiding the UN mandate for 12 years.

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People do forget, as I say, in April 1991

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when the inspectors...the first UN resolution was passed,

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15 days was the deadline. Well, we're 12 years later.

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You require a certain amount of skill

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in playing the international community off against each other.

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- So... - Some skill in that.

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And in terms of the trip to see the President this week,

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what's the most important thing... you've got to do...

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or you both have got to do,

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when you meet following the reports, tomorrow's reports,

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what's the most important item on the agenda?

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To agree the right strategy, um, for the future and to go out

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and explain to people, yet again,

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why it is important to deal with this issue

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and I think that the missing part which, you know, we've got

0:16:470:16:51

a responsibility to get across to people is to explain how...

0:16:510:16:56

why we are concerned about this

0:16:560:16:57

whole issue of weapons of mass destruction,

0:16:570:16:59

because I think there's a sense in which people feel...

0:16:590:17:02

Look, if something like 11th September happens,

0:17:020:17:04

they can see an immediate... event has happened,

0:17:040:17:08

there's an immediate threat, there's something you need to go after.

0:17:080:17:12

I think it's a lot more difficult with this issue

0:17:120:17:14

because people don't perceive an immediate threat

0:17:140:17:16

and yet it's our job, I think, to say to people, "Look,

0:17:160:17:20

"this is why we're worried about this issue,

0:17:200:17:22

"not just in respect of Iraq,

0:17:220:17:24

"but more broadly than that and this is the potential link

0:17:240:17:27

"this has with these terrible, extremist, fanatical groups

0:17:270:17:30

"who have given a quite different dimension to terrorism."

0:17:300:17:35

And people do say... What about the people who say that there's

0:17:350:17:38

a real downside to this?

0:17:380:17:40

There's the...Britain becoming a more attractive target for terrorism,

0:17:400:17:45

er, the Middle East going up in flames. All of those things.

0:17:450:17:50

Iraqis being killed, civilians being killed in their hundreds, um...

0:17:510:17:56

What do you feel about that? There is a downside, obviously.

0:17:560:17:59

You're not painting this as 100% perfect.

0:17:590:18:01

No, of course not, and the very reason

0:18:010:18:03

we went down the UN route, when some people thought

0:18:030:18:06

that we were just going to lash out,

0:18:060:18:07

is precisely to give peace a chance to work but, in the end,

0:18:070:18:10

what have we learned from our own history

0:18:100:18:12

and the history of the world? That if there is, um, wrong in the world,

0:18:120:18:17

if there is a threat and you don't deal with it,

0:18:170:18:20

you have to deal with it with even worse consequences in the future

0:18:200:18:23

and, you know, the person who's killed hundreds, thousands

0:18:230:18:25

of Iraqis is Saddam.

0:18:250:18:27

I mean, he's the person who used chemical weapons

0:18:270:18:30

against his own Iraqi people.

0:18:300:18:32

Incidentally, about Britain being a target...

0:18:320:18:35

who would have thought Indonesia was going to be a target,

0:18:350:18:38

when those people died in Bali, or Kenya?

0:18:380:18:41

Um, round the whole of Europe, there are arrests happening,

0:18:410:18:46

not just in Britain, but in France, for example,

0:18:460:18:48

which you might have thought has taken

0:18:480:18:49

a slightly softer position on the question of Iraq.

0:18:490:18:52

We're not going to avoid this by hiding away

0:18:520:18:56

and it's not what the British do anyway.

0:18:560:18:58

I mean, there's a struggle on and we've got to be there

0:18:580:19:00

and we will have, I think...

0:19:000:19:02

You know, we would have no influence in shaping it unless we were there

0:19:020:19:06

and prepared to be there and I really passionately believe this.

0:19:060:19:09

The world is very ambivalent towards America on these issues.

0:19:090:19:13

We want America to deal with these issues

0:19:130:19:14

and yet we want to attack them at the same time.

0:19:140:19:17

And I think that when America is taking on these tough

0:19:170:19:20

and difficult questions, our job is to be there,

0:19:200:19:22

not be there at any price, not be there without saying

0:19:220:19:24

how we think the thing should be dealt with,

0:19:240:19:26

but being there in the difficult and tricky times,

0:19:260:19:30

not simply there, you know, as fair-weather friends.

0:19:300:19:34

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