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SET FOR WAR.

Byline: IAN HERNON

BRITISH and US troops are ready for war if Iraq does not disarm, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon declared today.

Mr Hoon warned that failing to tackle Saddam Hussein could prove catastrophic as the allies began a fresh push for international support.

Britain and the US were expected to put a new resolution on Iraq before the United Nations Security Council today or tomorrow.

Prime Minister Tony Blair was also looking to rally support for any war at home as well as abroad.

Speaking at the start of a visit to the Gulf, Mr Hoon echoed American warnings that US and UK allied troops were ready if war were needed.

``There is no rush to war,'' he said.

``We must do everything we can to avoid war, but if conflict remains the only way of disarming Saddam, we are ready.''

Speaking in Kuwait, Mr Hoon said: ``People say Saddam may be bad, but question whether he threatens us directly. I would remind them of these facts: perhaps it may never happen, but history teaches us differently.

``The consequences of being wrong would be catastrophic.

``To do nothing,to give Saddam Hussein time without end, as he wishes, would be easier than taking action, certainly.''

Mr Hoon repeated that, while a second UN resolution would be welcome, it was not necessary.

London and Washington will not press for a vote on the new resolution for another couple of weeks.

The time will be needed to step up the battle to win the support of the other 13 countries on the UN Security Council, including those with veto power - France, Russia and China.

At the same time, Mr Blair will seekto rally support for the government's strategy among Labour backbenchers ahead of a crucial Commons vote on Wednesday.
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Feb 24, 2003
Words:298
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