British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday the time was not yet right for military action against Iraq but asserted that the world would be a safer place without Saddam Hussein in power.
Opposition Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith asked Blair if he had promised President Bush British support for a U.S. attack on Iraq, during a weekend visit to the American leader's Texas ranch.
"The time for military action has not yet arisen," Blair replied in parliament. "However, there is no doubt at all that the development of weapons of mass destruction by Saddam Hussein poses a severe threat not just to the region but to the wider world."
Bush declared last week he had decided Saddam must go but would not elaborate on how that might be achieved. Pressed on a change of regime in Baghdad, Blair signaled the same ambition.
"There is no doubt whatever that the world would be a better place without Saddam," he said. "However, the method of doing this, that is ... something that is open to consultation and deliberation."
Blair faces considerable opposition at home, not least from the ranks of his own party, to any attack on Iraq.
Some 146 members of parliament, mostly from his ruling Labor party, have signed a motion expressing "deep unease" about an attack on Iraq.
According To Reuters, the prime minister said Saddam could avoid the wrath of the United States and Britain by allowing United Nations weapons inspectors to return to his country unfettered.
"This is an issue that has to be confronted and will be confronted," Blair said. "We will do it in a sensible way, we will do it in a measured way but we cannot allow a state of this nature to develop these weapons without let or hindrance.
"Action of this nature is very serious. It should not be undertaken lightly. It should be undertaken with consultation and deliberation with key allies."
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