BLACKPOOL, England – An international coalition must set an ultimatum, backed by the threat of force, for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, Prime Minister Tony Blair said Tuesday.
"Let us lay down the ultimatum. Let Saddam comply with the will of the U.N.," Blair said in a tough speech to a convention of his governing Labor Party.
Blair said the world has to be ready to use force if Saddam does not agree to destroy his chemical and biological weapons, arguing that the credibility of the United Nations was at stake.
"If we lose our collective will to deal with it, we will lose the authority not of the United States or of Britain, but of the United Nations," Blair said.
The prime minister said that when dealing with dictators, sometimes "the only hope for peace is the readiness for war."
Blair also dismissed criticism that he too closely follows the United States' lead, and he defended his close relationship with President Bush.
"The basic values of America are our values, too -- Britain and Europe -- and they are good values," Blair said.
"My vision of Britain is not the 51st state of anywhere, but I believe in this alliance and I will fight long and hard to preserve it," he said, despite what he called widespread anti-Americanism in Britain and other countries.
For months, the center-left Labor Party has been roiled by disagreement over Blair's tough stance on Iraq, with many dissenters expressing deep misgivings about the possibility of war.
But after an emotional two-hour debate in the seaside resort town of Blackpool on Monday, delegates passed a motion supporting the use of force against Saddam if all else fails and the United Nations supports it.