British Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Thursday there was unanimity among NATO leaders on the need for Iraq to disarm.
Blair, speaking to reporters after meeting U.S. President George W. Bush, upheld the hardline U.S. position that Iraq should disarm or face serious consequences. "I think what you will find here at this NATO summit is a total united determination on behalf of the international community," said Blair.
"I think, reflected in the United Nations resolution, that Saddam Hussein has to disarm himself of all weapons of mass destruction. And how that happens is a choice for him," Blair said. The British leader added if Saddam failed to cooperate "then he will be disarmed by force. And that is the clearest will of the international community. And I think you will find now that there is a consensus for that position virtually across the civilised world".
U.S. officials are pressing NATO leaders to back a strong statement of political support for the U.N. resolution requiring Iraq to disarm.
U.S. President Bush escalated his rhetoric against Iraq and began assembling a coalition for possible war. Bush warned Saddam Wednesday that he would be entering his "final stage" as Iraqi leader if he denied having weapons of mass destruction.
It would be folly for Saddam to repeat past defiance of United Nations demands to give up his deadly weapons, Bush said in a speech.
"We now call an end to that game of deception and deceit and denial. Saddam Hussein has been given a very short time to declare completely and truthfully his arsenal of terror," he said.
"Should he again deny that this arsenal exists, he will have entered his final stage with a lie, and deception this time will not be tolerated. Delay and defiance will invite the severest consequences," Bush told an audience of students in Prague.
The White House said the United States had started contacting some 50 states to assess their willingness to join a "coalition of the willing" in any action against Iraq. (Albawaba.com)