London (CNSNews.com) - Bill Clinton addressed the annual conference of British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labor Party on Wednesday, shoring up Blair's position on Iraq at a time of mixed British feelings over the possibility of military action.
The former president's address came at a conference where Blair had already faced opposition over his handling of the Iraq crisis and domestic issues. On Monday, delegates supported the use of U.N.-approved military force against Saddam Hussein as a last resort, but only after heated debate.
In another vote, party members opposed Blair's plans to allow private industry to provide a number of government services. The vote carries no official weight but was seen as a political blow to the prime minister.
During his speech, Clinton backed the policy being taken by Blair and President Bush on Iraq.
"We need a strong new resolution calling for unrestricted inspections," he said. "There should be a deadline and no lack of clarity about what Iraq must do."
"I agree with the many Republicans and Democrats in America and many here in Britain who want to go through the United Nations to bring the whole of world opinion and to bring us all together to offer one more chance to the inspections."
"Saddam Hussein, as usual, is bobbing and weaving. We should call his bluff," Clinton said. "We will not allow ourselves to be defeated by tyrants with weapons of mass destruction. That will not happen."
Clinton directly addressed reservations expressed by left-wing Labor Party members that Blair's government is too close to a conservative American administration.
"I disagree with them (conservatives) on nearly everything," Clinton said. "But we can't lose sight of bigger issues. To build the world we want, America will have to be involved."
"We need to stay at this business until we get all of the biological and chemical weapons out of there," he said.
Playing to the center-left and left-wing audience, Clinton also attacked Bush's income tax cut and accused the president of "declaring war" on the previous administration's environmental policies.
Clinton delivered his speech as Britain made clear its opposition to a pact to allow U.N. weapons inspectors back into Iraq.
Under the deal, brokered Tuesday in Vienna by Iraqi officials and chief U.N. inspector Hans Blix, inspectors would go in under rules determined in 1998. Those conditions exclude Iraq's "presidential palaces", large complexes where Saddam is thought to be hiding key components of his arsenal.
Following an earlier U.S. rejection of the restrictions, U.K. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Britain would continue to push for a new, tougher U.N. resolution.
"We have great respect for Hans Blix, but Hans Blix is a senior civil servant of the United Nations and can only operate within the existing policy and that policy is defective," Straw said.
"What we have to have is upgraded weapons inspection arrangements," Straw said. "It is well known that within these so-called presidential palaces much of the manufacture of the weapons of mass destruction has taken place, and it is just a further illustration of the way this man (Saddam) plays games."
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