Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blair Tells Iraqis: This Time We Will Not Let You Down; PLEDGE FROM PM AS ALLIES WIN CONTROL OF UMM QASR PORT

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Blair Tells Iraqis: This Time We Will Not Let You Down; PLEDGE FROM PM AS ALLIES WIN CONTROL OF UMM QASR PORT

Article excerpt

Byline: PATRICK HENNESSY

TONY BLAIR today pledged that Saddam Hussein would be toppled and insisted that the war was going exactly how coalition commanders had planned it.

He vowed to help ordinary Iraqi people be free of their dictatorial leader in a way the West had failed to do the past. "This time we will not let you down," he declared.

"His regime will be removed and Iraq will have a better future."

As it was revealed that the southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr had been secured by allied forces, Mr Blair acknowledged that on the way to removing Saddam there would be "tragedies and accidents" - including the deaths and captures of allied servicemen.

He added: "The strategy is taking place as we thought it would."

Coalition forces were rapidly closing on Baghdad, he confirmed.

The Prime Minister ruled out bringing any more British troops, claiming: "We have the forces we need to do the job." Mr Blair used a Downing Street news conference to call for new bridges between Europe and the US and for the United Nations to have a key role in rebuilding Iraq. He confirmed he is to visit the US tomorrow, a trip in which he will hold a war summit with President George Bush at Camp David and talks with UN secretary general Kofi Annan.

Mr Blair struck a confident and positive tone as he addressed a worldwide TV audience in the wake of reports that Operation Iraqi Freedom was becoming bogged down amid heavier-than-expected resistance.

He said everything was on track five days into the war and stressed that coalition forces had already covered more ground than they had during the entire 1991 Gulf War.

Questioned repeatedly about the stiff resistance, he claimed it had always been expected from Iraqis whose survival depended on sustaining Saddam's tyrannical regime.

He said the picture would look very difficult once ordinary Iraqis realised that Saddam's ruling Ba'ath party was crumbling. …

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