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Blair: Deposing Saddam 'humane'

Blair: "I continue to want to solve the issue of Iraq and weapons of mass destruction through the U.N."

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GLASGOW, Scotland (CNN) -- Trying to present a moral case against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Tony Blair said Saturday he would not "shrink from military action" against Baghdad but urged a resolution through the United Nations.

"Ridding the world of Saddam would be an act of humanity, it is leaving him there that is inhumane," the British prime minister said, in an address to the ruling Labour Party conference in Glasgow. "That's why I don't shrink from military action, should that indeed be necessary."

While many of Blair's European counterparts have voiced suspicion about whether or not the Iraqi leader possesses weapons of mass destruction, Blair sided with the United States that Saddam poses a threat.

"Let no one forget two things: to anyone familiar with Saddam's tactics of deception and evasion, there is a weary sense of deja vu," Blair said. "As ever, at the last minute, concessions are made.

"The concessions are suspect. Unfortunately, the weapons are real."

Blair faces an uphill battle in convincing his divided political party, as well as the British public, that a war in Iraq -- even with a second U.N. resolution -- is necessary.

"Remember, the U.N. inspectors would not be within a thousand miles of Baghdad without the threat of force," the British leader said. "Saddam would not be making a single concession without the knowledge that forces were gathering against him.

"I hope even now Iraq can be disarmed peacefully with or without Saddam."

His comments follow Friday's report to the U.N. Security Council by chief U.N. weapons inspectors, that 11 weeks of inspections in Iraq have turned up no evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

What inspectors have found, they said, are missiles that go beyond the range permitted by the United Nations, as well as empty chemical warheads. In addition, Iraq has still not accounted for some chemical weapons it was known to have previously, they added.

They said it is too soon to tell whether Iraq possesses prohibited weapons, but expressed confidence that inspections are working and getting increased support from Baghdad.

Three permanent council members with veto power -- France, Russia, and China -- repeated their stance that inspections should be given more time, while the United States and Britain insisted it is clear Iraq is failing to comply with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441.

The resolution, passed unanimously in November, calls for Iraq to face "serious consequences" if there is a "material breach" of the resolution. The United States and Britain are seeking a second U.N. resolution supporting military action.

CNN's European Political Editor Robin Oakley said the biggest nightmare for Blair is failing to get a second U.N. resolution, so Saturday's speech was about making the moral case for military action against Iraq.

An anti-war protester makes his way to the anti-war march in London.
An anti-war protester makes his way to the anti-war march in London.

"Until this week Blair was confident of winning a second resolution. But clearly the latest report by Blix and ElBaradei has pushed the argument back towards Russia and France. So he has win the back ground but opponents say the moral case has not been made and want to see a smoking gun," Oakley said.

"Party activists gave Blair a good reception, but it's dissenters outside the conference, in his Cabinet and those threatening to tear up their Labour Party membership cards that he has yet to win over."

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