Skip to comments.Blair celebrates as Saddam's rule crumbles
Posted on 04/09/2003 9:29:58 AM PDT by kattracks
Blair celebrates as Saddam's rule crumbles
By Katherine Baldwin
LONDON, April 9 (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair celebrated on Wednesday as jubilant Iraqis danced on a toppled statue of Saddam Hussein, but he cautioned that it was too early to declare military victory in Iraq.
"We are all, as you would expect, watching these images along with the rest of the country and we are delighted at what we are seeing," Blair's spokesman told reporters, minutes after U.S. troops pulled down the statue in central Baghdad.
"People have seen today the scales of fear falling from the people of Iraq. It's an insight into what it must have been like to live under Saddam," he added.
But despite the vivid images of Saddam's crumbling regime, the spokesman warned of difficulties ahead. He said victory would only come when substantial parts of Iraq were free of violence and the last remnants of his rule were gone.
"We are not at that point yet," he added.
Earlier on Wednesday, Blair told parliament: "This conflict is not over yet. It is extremely difficult, as we speak, to know what is left of the governing higher ranks of Saddam's regime."
With Britain unable to confirm whether Saddam was dead or alive, Blair said it was unclear who would be the appropriate authority to surrender on behalf of the Iraqi government.
"We must be clear that whoever we accept a final declaration from -- that so far as Saddam's regime is concerned the war is over -- whoever it is, has the appropriate authority. I can't make a judgment at the moment as to who that would be."
Blair said he was confident weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq, and Britain was in talks with the United Nations to bring in external inspectors to examine any findings.
"Plainly it will be a good idea from every perspective to make sure there is some objective verification of any potential weapons of mass destruction that are seized," he said.
U.S. officials have said they might allow the U.N. inspectors to verify the findings of American investigators, though U.N. officials have said such a secondary role would not be acceptable.
Blair also sought to dismiss concerns that the United States might attack Syria after Iraq, after U.S. officials said Syria had shipped weapons to Iraq. He said Syria had assured him it had not supplied weapons.
"We've made it very clear that that would be unacceptable," Blair said. But he referred to "the need to make sure... that all support from countries like Syria for terrorist organisations ceases and ceases entirely."
Looking to postwar Iraq, Blair expressed confidence that the international community could agree on an appropriate structure for a post-Saddam administration.
Blair will speak later on Wednesday with French President Jacques Chirac, who wants the United Nations to play the main role in rebuilding the country, and other world leaders by telephone.
04/09/03 12:25 ET
. . . but we still aren't gonna kiss the UN's ass.
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