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Blair broadcasts message to Iraq

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•  Commanders: U.S. | Iraq
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Iraq's U.N. ambassador delivers a letter accepting the restart of inspections. CNN's Frank Buckley reports (November 13)
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LONDON, England -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair was broadcasting directly into Iraq on Thursday night, hoping to deliver a personal message to Saddam Hussein.

Blair recorded an interview for the Arabic service of Radio Monte Carlo, the most popular station broadcasting into Iraq, and his Downing Street office said Saddam was known to be a listener.

"The prime minister took the opportunity to speak directly to Saddam, to the Iraqi people and the wider Arab world," said Blair's official spokesman.

In the broadcast, Blair warned the Iraqi leader he would be disarmed by force if he failed to co-operate with United Nations weapons inspectors.

"It is up to him as to whether he does it, and if he doesn't do it then the consequence is that the weapons will be disarmed by force -- and that is why it is important to realise this is a very, very clear choice, but if he wishes to comply and co-operate with the inspectors, that is fine," said Blair.

He said Saddam's duty was to co-operate fully with the inspectors.

Blair said Saddam's regime was "brutal and oppressive" and added: "The Iraqi people are potentially a prosperous people, Iraq is a country that is potentially rich.

"The standard of living and prosperity of the Iraqi people would be infinitely greater were Saddam not there."

In a jibe at Saddam's claimed 100 percent turnout to re-elect him president, Blair said: "You only have to look at the recent election.

"What we actually know is that only one in three people turned out to vote and the election was plainly a sham."

The British PM said: "One of the reasons I wanted to speak to you today is to communicate with people directly, because what happens in a situation like this is that there are myths that grow up.

"I have just dealt with one myth that this is about Christians versus Muslims -- it isn't -- or is about the West versus the Arab world, or it's about oil.

"It is just to explain to people that in the end we live in a different world today."

He also stressed the "great" relations Britain once enjoyed with Iraq and was at pains to deal at length with the Middle East peace process, stressing his desire to see a secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state.

He said: "We paid a price in the Gulf war, many Iraqi people paid a heavy price in the Iran-Iraq war, Iraqi people have paid a heavy price when weapons of mass destruction have been used against Iraqi people."

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw briefed Cabinet colleagues on the latest situation at their regular Thursday weekly meeting.

On Wednesday, Straw welcomed Iraq's decision to invite U.N. weapons inspectors back to Iraq -- but warned of "serious consequences" if the mission were thwarted. (Full story)

Iraq's ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Al-Douri, delivered the acceptance of the resolution ordering the inspectors to return in a letter to the U.N. He said: "We try to explain our position saying Iraq will not have mass destruction weapons. So we are not worried about the inspectors when they will be back in the country. Iraq is clean." (Full story)

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