Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blair Faces Tougher Task to Win Support on Home Front; WAR ON TERROR: STRONG STANCE ON SADDAM MAINTAINED AFTER EURO SUMMIT

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blair Faces Tougher Task to Win Support on Home Front; WAR ON TERROR: STRONG STANCE ON SADDAM MAINTAINED AFTER EURO SUMMIT

Article excerpt

Byline: CHARLES REISS

TONY BLAIR, fresh from a hardfought battle in Europe, today faced up to the far tougher task of wooing support from his own voters for war in the Gulf.

The Prime Minister, back from a late-night emergency EU summit in Brussels, will stick by his message that military pressure is the only way to hold Saddam Hussein in check.

He was also set to reaffirm that war remained the ultimate threat, with or without specific new authority from the United Nations if Iraq refused to remove its chemical and biological weaponry.

Mr Blair left the Brussels summit with a qualified victory in his pocket.

A statement agreed by all 15 leaders said war could be waged as a last resort. And it warned that the UN weapons inspectors could not be allowed to continue their search "indefinitely".

The toughening of stance, overcoming opposition led by France and Germany, was hailed by the British side.

But in a classic Euro fudge, a phrase was also inserted into the statement at the last moment saying that the weapons inspectors must be allowed the time the UN Security Council judged necessary in order to do their job.

The summit, which saw bitter exchanges between the leaders, did little to heal the personal divide which has opened up between the Euro doves and hawks.

Mr Blair, warning that to leave Saddam in power and fully armed would mean thousands of deaths, was sharply told by Chancellor Gerhard Schroder of Germany that more people were dying every day in North Korea than in Iraq.

When President Chirac of France declared that he and his supporters were concerned at the prospects of thousands dying in war, Italy's Prime Minister Berlusconi snapped back that others were also concerned about the massive loss of life in America on September 11 and in the Bali bombing.

Mr Blair will confer with two of his foremost EU allies when he goes to see Mr Berlusconi in Rome later this week and hold talks with Spanish premier Jose Maria Aznar next week. …

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