LONDON – Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and intends to use them, British Prime Minister Tony Blair told an emergency session of Parliament Tuesday morning.
"The case for ensuring Iraqi disarmament as the U.N. has stipulated is overwhelming," Blair said. "I defy anyone on the basis of this evidence to say that is an unreasonable demand for the international community to make."
The special legislative session followed the release of a British government report detailing Baghdad's efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, including plans to use chemical and biological weapons and attempts to get "significant quantities" of raw uranium from Africa.
"Iraq's current military planning specifically envisages the use of chemical and biological weapons" against the country's majority Shia Muslim community, the dossier reads, and that some of the weapons are ready to be used within 45 minutes of an order being issued.
"I am in no doubt that the threat is serious and current, that [Saddam Hussein] has made progress on [weapons of mass destruction], and that he has to be stopped," Blair says in an introduction to the 50-page report.
"Unless we face up to the threat, not only do we risk undermining the authority of the U.N., whose resolutions he defies, but more importantly and in the longer term, we place at risk the lives and prosperity of our own people," Blair's introduction adds.
To read the dossier's full text, click here.
Iraq rejected the analysis of the British dossier.
"The British prime minister is serving the campaign of lies led by Zionists against Iraq. Blair is part of this misleading campaign," Iraqi Culture Minister Hammed Youssef Hammadi told reporters in Baghdad.
Blair's hard line on Iraq is not shared by many lawmakers within his own Labor party and has reportedly divided his own Cabinet.
Parliamentary support for military action against Baghdad would depend on the opposition Conservative party, and commentators said the dossier was published in an effort to sway British public opinion.
The dossier argues that Iraq continues to develop chemical and biological weapons, is trying to acquire nuclear weapons and has extended the range of its ballistic missiles.
The report outlines extensive Iraqi efforts to rebuild chemical plants and other facilities that could be used to manufacture weapons of mass destruction, which it says Saddam Hussein attaches great importance to as the basis of Iraq's regional power.
"It shows that he does not regard them only as weapons of last resort. He is ready to use them, including against his own population, and is determined to retain them, in breach of United Nations Security Council resolutions," the report says.
The report rejects Iraqi claims that the country has destroyed its biological weapons, saying Baghdad may retain huge stocks of anthrax. Iraq now has mobile laboratories for developing biological warfare agents, the report said.
The dossier also says that Baghdad has tried to acquire significant quantities of uranium from Africa and has covertly tried to acquire technology and materials to refine that uranium and produce crude nuclear weapons.
If U.N. sanctions against Iraq were lifted, Saddam could develop a nuclear weapon within 12 months to two years, says the report.
It also states that Iraq still has up to 20 al-Hussein missiles, capable of carrying chemical or biological warheads, with ranges of 400 miles, far enough to reach Israel and the rest of the Levant, parts of Turkey and major cities in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Other missiles are being developed with the ability to reach Greece, the report adds.
Blair told Parliament that the assessment was based on highly classified intelligence material but gave no more details.
However, there appeared to be little new information in the report. Analysts have been warning for years that Saddam has continued to develop chemical and biological weapons and has also tried to develop nuclear weapons, although with little sign of success.
Maj. Charles Heyman, editor of Jane's World Armies, part of the renowned London-based private military-analysis service, said the report "does not produce any convincing evidence, or any killer fact, that says that Saddam Hussein has to be taken out straight away."
"What it does do is produce very convincing evidence that the weapons inspectors have to be pushed back into Iraq very quickly," Heyman said.
Left-wing lawmakers said Blair had provided little new information in the dossier.
"Tony Blair will have to do better than this if he wants to convince the British public to go to war," said Labor lawmaker Diane Abbott.
Within minutes of the dossier's release, anti-war protesters outside Parliament began blasting John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance."
Some Labor members of Parliament went so far as to publish a counter-document, called "The dishonest case for war on Iraq."
"The reality is this is a war about George Bush, arms and oil, and we will be questioning Blair very closely about why Britain cannot have a foreign policy independent of the U.S. administration," said lawmaker Jeremy Corbyn.
A poll in Tuesday's left-leaning Guardian newspaper said 86 percent of Britons believe the government should seek the support of the British Parliament and the United Nations before taking military action against Iraq.
Fox News' Paul Wagenseil and the Associated Press contributed to this report.