US and Britain insist on force against Iraq

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The Independent Online
Bill Clinton and Tony Blair put on a strong common front over Iraq yesterday, insisting that if diplomatic efforts fail, then military force will follow, writes Mary Dejevsky in Washington.

"We must be prepared to act, and we are," the President said. "We have to prepare in case diplomacy cannot work," said the Prime Minister. They were definitely singing from the same hymn sheet, even if Russia, China and France have their doubts about air strikes.

Mr Blair also confirmed that Britain is sending eight Tornado aircraft to Kuwait in case they are needed. "These are ground-attack and reconnaissance aircraft," The Prime Minister said. "It will take place over the next few days." Though the move is really a gesture, it has high political significance at a time when the US is getting flak from its partners over its bellicose stance on the Gulf.

The Prime Minister said the two leaders had discussed Iraq, the peace process in the Middle East, Bosnia, the global economy, the Asian financial crisis and the importance for Europe of Turkey.

The Prime Minister cited a "great comradeship and partnership" between the two countries.

The two leaders and their wives were spending last night at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin mountains. In private, British officials said, the two leaders discussed the logistics of an Iraqi attack.

There were signs of frustration within the Clinton administration over the political pushing and pulling. Defense Secretary William Cohen, appearing at a Congressional hearing on Thursday, complained about the UN.

"We think, frankly, if the United Nations were to stand behind its own resolutions ... that would be the best way to contain him," Mr Cohen said.

The already large American presence grew even larger with the arrival in the Gulf of a third aircraft-carrier and the order by President Clinton for ships carrying 2,000 Marines to move into the area.

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