Blair: Action Against Iraq 'Not Imminent'

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:11 PM EDT

London ( - Allied action against Iraq is "not imminent" but the world must confront the threat of weapons of mass destruction, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Thursday.

Blair refused to say whether Britain's participation in any military action against Iraq would be subject to a parliamentary vote.

"I don't think there is any point in getting into speculation at this point in time about the right way to consult the House of Commons," he said.

"I actually think we are all getting a bit ahead of ourselves on the issue of Iraq. As I have said before, action is not imminent, we are not at the point of decision yet," he said. "We're not ready yet - it's not the right moment."

Blair's remarks came during his second monthly televised press briefing. His administration decided to hold the American-style government news conferences after accusations of secrecy leveled by critics and journalists.

Normally, a select few British journalists are invited to a closed daily briefing given by the prime minister's official spokesman.

Afghanistan precedent

A non-binding parliamentary vote held after airstrikes began in Afghanistan supported the Britain's involvement in the war by a margin of 373-13.

The debate over military strikes against Iraq would be more contentious. Although Blair's Labor Party has a huge majority in the Commons and the prime minister would be expected to win a vote on Iraq, there is significant opposition from some left-wing legislators.

Some Conservative Party politicians have also raised questions about the scale of any British involvement, claiming the U.K. armed forces are overstretched around the world.

"I would simply say to you that if you look at what we did in relation for example to Afghanistan, we consulted the House of Commons very carefully," Blair said. "But I am not going to pin myself at this stage to any specific form of consultation."

In March, the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw detailed Saddam Hussein's build-up of weapons of mass destruction and said inspectors had firm evidence of the production of chemical and biological arms before Saddam deported them in 1998.

"We can publish more evidence later and if it is appropriate we will," Blair said Thursday. "There is already an enormous amount of accumulated evidence of what Iraq was up to."

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