Britain Will Stand Strong With U.S. in Terror Fight
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 8, 2004 British Prime Minister Tony Blair defended Britain's role in Operation Iraqi Freedom before the House of Commons July 6, calling his country's close relationship with the United States essential in the fight against global terrorism and rogue regimes trying to develop weapons of mass destruction.
Blair said Britain and the United States share common values and the belief that "the best security we ultimately have is the spread of freedom and democracy and justice throughout the world."
While acknowledging that no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq, Blair rejected suggestions they never existed. "We know Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but we know we have not found them," the prime minister said.
"I genuinely believe that those stockpiles of weapons were there. I think that most people did, and that is why the whole of the international community came together and passed the United Nations resolution it did," Blair said.
Where those weapons are, he said, remains a mystery, at least until results of the Iraq Survey Group are released. Even that report, he said, might prove to be only an indication, not a final assessment.
"We do not know what has happened to them. They could have been removed; they could have been hidden; they could have been destroyed," Blair said. "I have to accept that we have not found them, that we may not find them."
Despite the failure to uncover them, Blair said such weapons posed a danger in hands of Saddam, whom he said "was a threat, not only to his region, but to the entire world."
"The world is a safer place without him," Blair said.
The prime minister told the House of Commons that Britain has "played a constructive part" in bringing change to Iraq. He said he admires the way Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and his interim government have approached their first days in office since the June 28 transfer of sovereignty.
Blair said Britain continues to maintain close ties with its European allies, including France and Germany, that did not support Operation Iraqi Freedom. But, he insisted, he is "not going to have the relationship with the United States of America subordinated to the interests of any other country."
Blair said it's in Britain's best interest to maintain a strong relationship with the United States. "Most countries around the world would give their eye- teeth to have that relationship," he said.
The prime minister said Britain formally requested the return of four Britons being detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "a few weeks ago," but said the United States isn't being unreasonable by detaining people it considers a security threat.
Before accepting custody of the detainees, Blair said, it's critical Britain have the "infrastructure and machinery" in place to ensure the country's security. "The basic situation remains as it has always been: that if we do have them back here we have to make sure that we can also guarantee our own security," he said.