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Blair offers strongest comments on Iraq yet

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 8, 2002

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in the strongest signal he would back U.S. military action against Iraq, said Sunday that Saddam Hussein must allow weapons inspectors into his country "any time, any place the international community demands" or face consequences.

Blair, ending a weekend of talks with President Bush, urged the international community to confront terrorist regimes with military force if necessary -- then called Hussein a brutal leader who must be dealt with. He stopped short of specifically threatening military action against Iraq.

"The regime of Saddam is detestable," Blair said.

Bush has said all options are on the table, a characterization that aides say includes military action.

Many foreign leaders, including U.S. allies, worry about Bush's intentions. Chinese President Jiang Zemin, in remarks published Sunday, urged the United States to refrain from military action against Iraq. "International disputes cannot be solved by force," Jiang said.

Meanwhile, Hussein on Sunday vowed to defeat the United States if it attacks Iraq.

"We will fight (the Americans) with missiles, warplanes, marsh reeds and even stones, and they will be defeated," state-run media quoted Hussein as saying.

Also Sunday . . .

COMPENSATION SOUGHT: Sixty survivors held a rally Sunday at the gates of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, seeking compensation for losses from the U.S. bombing campaign.

About 450 claims have been filed, half involving loss of life, and the rest involving property loss, said Marla Ruzicka of the U.S.-based advocacy group Global Exchange. The group suggests the United States pay $10,000 per family to rebuild homes and compensate for loss of life.

The U.S. Embassy has told the activists to submit claims to the embassy, "but they never let us know the status of the claims," Ruzicka complained.

MORE U.S. TROOPS EN ROUTE?: The United States might send 300 more troops to the Philippines to help rebuild roads, seaports and an airstrip where the local army is fighting rebels, a Philippine army officer said Sunday. They would join 660 American troops there.

PAKISTANI BOYCOTT: The 15-party Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy, which includes Pakistan's two main parties, said Sunday it will boycott a referendum on extending the term of Pakistan's military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a key U.S. ally in the antiterrorism campaign. The alliance accused him of using unconstitutional means to remain president.

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