U.K. May Support Iraq War Without U.N.

Britain would support a U.S.-led war on Iraq without United Nations backing if any countries imposed an "unreasonable blockage" on a new Security Council resolution, Prime Minister Tony Blair said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder suggested his government would oppose or abstain from a new resolution sanctioning war. France, which unlike Germany is a permanent member of the Security Council and could veto a resolution, also is cool to the idea of war.

Blair told lawmakers in the House of Commons that Britain "would support (military action) in circumstances of a second U.N. resolution, and we would support it ... where it was clear there was a breach by Saddam and there was an unreasonable blockage of a Security Council resolution."

Despite Germany's reluctance to vote for military action against Saddam Hussein, Britain expressed confidence the U.N. would stand up to any defiance from Iraq.

"The U.N. will accept its responsibilities in this matter and make sure that Saddam Hussein does not get away with what he has been getting away with for years," Foreign Office minister Denis MacShane told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

The United States and Britain have threatened to use force to disarm Iraq if it does not prove it has given up its alleged chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs, as required by U.N. Security Council resolutions. Iraq maintains it has no banned weapons.

Blair has repeatedly said he would prefer a second Security Council resolution authorizing any military action, but has not ruled out joining U.S.-led action without it.

On Tuesday Schroeder said Germany would not send any troops to fight in Iraq and added that he had told French officials: "Don't expect Germany to approve a resolution legitimizing war, don't expect it."

Germany has no veto powers on the 15-nation Security Council, but is set for a pivotal role on the council when it takes over the chair from France next month.

While countries including France, Russia and China have called for weapons inspectors to be given more time to search Iraq for weapons of mass destruction, President Bush warned Tuesday that time was running out for Saddam. The inspectors are due to deliver a report to the United Nations on Jan. 27, which the United States says could prove Iraq is failing to comply with demands that it disarm.

"This business about more time — how much time do we need to see clearly that he's not disarming?" Bush said Tuesday.

In the House of Commons on Wednesday Blair said the inspectors must be given time to do their job, but stressed that their role "is not to play an elaborate game of hide and seek with Saddam."

Iraq, he said, had a "duty of cooperation" to reveal all stocks of banned weapons.

And he said inspectors would not have been able to go back to Iraq unless "a tough and insistent position had been taken by the U.S. Britain and others."

Britain is sending 35,000 troops — including a quarter of its army — to the Gulf region for possible military action against Iraq.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw was due to fly to Washington later Wednesday to meet with Secretary of State Colin Powell. The Foreign Office said the two would discuss "international issues including Iraq."