BRITAIN and the United States could be at war with Iraq by Christmas, a senior member of George Bushís administration warned yesterday.
Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, raised the prospect of an early military strike, piling pressure on Saddam Hussein to comply with
international demands that he surrenders his wea
pons of mass destruction. The United Nations passed a new security council resolution on Iraq
three days ago which called on Saddam to allow inspectors access to his stocks of wea
The Iraqi parliament adjourned last night without decision during after an emergency session yesterday to discuss its response.
The White House believes that the resolution gives it the power to launch military action against Baghdad without having to seek fresh UN support
should Saddam at any point fail to comply with it. He has until Friday to say whether he will allow the UN inspectors to return under the new mandate,
and the next deadline comes on December 8 when he must supply a list of Iraqís weapons programmes. The US is making it clear it is ready to act then
if Saddam fails at that hurdle.
The threat of an imminent strike against Iraq was underlined by Tony Blair in his annual speech to the Lord Mayorís banquet in London last night when
he declared that "ter
rorism and wea
pons of mass destruction are linked dangers".
The Prime Minister also delivered the most chilling warning yet of the threat posed by al-Qaeda and international ter
ror cells to the United
He said: "These are new and different dangers. These can strike at any time, across any national boundary and in pursuit of a cause with which there
can be little or no rational negotiation."
On the prospect of an imminent military strike against Iraq, Mr Blair said: "There is no dispute with the Iraqi people. Iraqís territorial integrity
will be absolute. The dispute is with Saddam. It is now up to him as to how it is resolved - by peace or by conflict."
The Prime Minister deliberately sought to ready the country for war and to urge vigilance in the face of a dramatically increased ter
threat to the United Kingdom.
He said Britons should expect ter
rorist attacks and be alert to "present and real" dangers, especially when travelling.
Mr Blair added: "At the moment, barely a day goes by without some new piece of intelligence coming via our security services about a threat to UK
He insisted the threat posed to the entire world by "failed states" which possess wea
pons of mass destruction was more serious than the Cold
In sharp contrast to Mr Blairís measured warnings yesterday, Mr Powell said on CNN: "Weíre not going to wait until February to see whether Iraq is
co-operating or not.
"If I were Saddam Hussein, I would take it with a great deal of concern and seriousness and understand that this is not some idle threat that has
been issued by the United States.
"This is not some resolution to be ignored, as heís ignored all previous resolutions."
President Bush, speaking at a veteransí day service in Washington yesterday, said: "The danger from Iraq is clear and its multiplied a thousand times
over by the possibility of a chemical or biological or a nuclear attack. The time to confront this threat is before it arrives, not the day after."
The Iraqi parliament is expected to symbolically reject the UN resolution today and refer it to the Revolutionary Command Council, which is overseen
by Saddam, for the ultimate decision on compliance.
President Bush is reported to have decided on a war plan that includes bom
bing strikes followed by up to 250,000 US and British soldiers if the
UN resolution fails.
Military strikes had not been expected to start until February, after wea
pons inspectors are due to report back to the UN, and when weather
conditions would be better suited to desert war.
Mr Blair said it was important to remember the threat from terrorist and wea
pons of mass destruction was as real today as it was on 11
September last year. He said: "Todayís breed of ter
rorist knows no bounds of geography, of inhumanity, or of scale. They are looking for ever
more dramatic and devastating outrages to inflict upon the people they claim to be their enemy. There is an added dimension - it is not just that they
care nothing for the lives of others, they care nothing for the loss of their own life."
Mr Blairís speech reinforced last weekís warning that Britain could be hit by a "dirty" nuclear bo
mb or by a nerve gas attack. He said: "The
dilemma is reconciling warning people with alarming them; taking preventive measures without destroying normal life."
SOURCE: The Scotsman