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Clinton backs Blair on Iraq

Clinton
Clinton is in England to offer his support to one-time close ally Blair

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BLACKPOOL, England (CNN) -- Former U.S. President Bill Clinton has supported calls for a new U.N. resolution giving weapons inspectors unrestricted access in Iraq.

Speaking to the Labour Party conference, Clinton also praised Tony Blair's tough stance on Iraq and his efforts to resolve the crisis within the framework of the United Nations.

"I support the efforts of the prime minister and President Bush to get tougher with Saddam Hussein," Clinton said.

"We need a strong new resolution calling for unrestricted inspections. The restrictions imposed in 1998 are unacceptable and won't do the job. There should be a deadline and no lack of clarity about what Iraq must do.

"I agree with the many Republicans and Democrats in America and many here who want to go through the U.N. to bring the weight of world opinion together, to offer one more chance for inspections," the former president said.

"Saddam Hussein as usual is bobbing and weaving. We should call his bluff. The U.N. should call for a complete and unrestricted set of inspections with a new resolution. If the inspections go forward perhaps we can avoid a conflict.

"In any case the world ought to show up and show we meant it in 1991 when we said this man should not have a biological, chemical and nuclear weapons programme, and we can do that through the UN."

Saying Blair is working to bring the world to a common position on Iraq, the former president said, " If he weren't there to do this, I doubt anyone else could. So I am very grateful.

"Weighing the risks and making the calls is what we elect leaders to do. As an American and a citizen of the world, I am grateful that Tony Blair will be central to weighing the risks and making the call.

"For the moment the rest of us should back his efforts in the United Nations."

Clinton received a lengthy standing ovation after his 50-minute speech, in which he also preached to the party faithful about the benefits of the Third Way politics that he and Blair have in common.

But it was his comments on Iraq that drew the most attention.

"It's important to remember that Britain and the U.S. made real progress in the 1990s with the inspection program. We discovered and destroyed far more biological and chemical weapons with inspections than we did in the Gulf War," he said.

"I still believe we have to stay at this business till we get all the biological and chemicals weapons out of there."

Clinton also said the West should work for regime change in "non-military means" even if inspections resume.

"The West has a lot to answer for in Iraq. In the Gulf War, the Shiites were urged to rise up, then were cruelly abandoned to their fate. We can't walk away from them. We don't necessarily have to go to war to give (freedom) to them, but we can't forget that we are not blameless in the misery they suffer."

Clinton also said military action "should always be the last resort" because it would give Saddam incentive to use weapons of mass destruction and because a pre-emptive strike could have "unexpected consequences."

Most important, Clinton said, "I don't care how precise your bombs and your weapons are, when you set them

off, innocent people will die."

Clinton also said the most pressing security challenge facing the West was to "finish the job" against al Qaida and its leaders.

Clinton arrived in the northern resort of Blackpool, England, on Tuesday night along with actor Kevin Spacey, who accompanied Clinton on his recent trip to Africa.

Spacey was in the audience for Clinton's speech, accompanied by the prime minister's wife, Cherie Blair.

In an article in the Labour conference magazine, Clinton said he's pleased that Blair is standing shoulder to shoulder with Bush, as he once did with Clinton.

"I am glad that the prime minister has already built a good personal relationship with President Bush," Clinton wrote.

"This shouldn't be something for criticism but for praise."

In his conference address on Tuesday, Blair defended his position on Iraq and his close ties with Bush.

"It's easy to be anti-American. There's a lot of it about," the Labour leader told delegates.

"But remember when and where this alliance was forged, here in Europe, in World War II when Britain and America and every decent citizen in Europe joined forces to liberate Europe from Nazi evil.

"My vision of Britain is not as the 51st state of anywhere, but I believe in this alliance and I will fight long and hard to maintain it."

Blair also warned that the authority of the United Nations was in danger if the world did not deal firmly with Iraq.



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