British Prime Minister, Tony Blair has privately reassured his Labor Party critics that Britain will not support US military attack on Iraq unless it wins the backing of the United Nations Security Council.
His assurances, at a private meeting with top Labor figures, were disclosed by The Independent newspaper on Friday as Britain stepped up the pace to secure agreement through the Security Council for the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq.
British ministers and officials are optimistic of a breakthrough at the UN which would lift the immediate threat of American-led military action. But Britain has warned Iraq that it must guarantee that weapons inspectors could "go anywhere, anytime" to prevent Baghdad from moving weapons around to evade detection.
Despite Blair's strong public support for President George Bush's threats to take military action, there is evidence that London and Washington are pursuing diverging strategies behind the scenes.
While Bush has made no secret of his goal of toppling Saddam, calling publicly for a "regime change", Britain is working hard through diplomatic channels. One senior British source said Thursday: "Our policy is to divest Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, not to divest Iraq of Saddam Hussein."
British officials suggested that Blair's tough warnings about military action were aimed partly at forcing Iraq to the negotiating table at the UN. "We have seen a different approach recently; we think Iraq is now taking the threat seriously," said one. (Albawaba.com)
© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )