Blair Says Iraq's Illicit Weapons

Existed but May Never Be Found

LONDON -- Prime Minister Tony Blair said Tuesday that illicit weapons of mass destruction may never be found in Iraq, but he insisted that former president Saddam Hussein had posed a threat to the world.

"I have to accept that we have not found them, that we may not find them," Blair said during a 21/2-hour session before a committee of lawmakers. "We do not know what has happened to them. They could have been removed, they could have been hidden, they could have been destroyed."

Blair rejected any suggestion that the stockpiles never existed and that Hussein had not been a danger to the world.

"To go to the opposite extreme and say therefore no threat existed from Saddam Hussein would be a mistake," he told the House of Commons Liaison Committee.

"I genuinely believe that those stockpiles of weapons were there," Blair added.

Blair also acknowledged some friction in his close relationship with President Bush as well as the political problems the friendship causes at home. Blair used his sharpest language yet in the long-standing dispute over the Bush administration's detentions at the U.S. naval facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, saying they "must end." But Blair defended the alliance in the war against terror, insisting it was in Britain's best interest.

Europe

* THE HAGUE -- The U.N. tribunal ruled that former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic is fit to stand trial but that he may not be healthy enough to continue defending himself against charges of war crimes and genocide.

A three-judge panel ordered Milosevic, 62, to undergo a new medical examination by an independent cardiologist and postponed hearings in his case until July 14. The judges also instructed the tribunal's registrar to identify a lawyer who could be assigned to Milosevic's defense if necessary.

The ruling came one day after the judges released details of the former Yugoslav leader's heart condition and said they planned a "radical review" of the trial's procedure.

Asia

* KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan and U.N. officials failed to agree on a date for national elections, further muddying the timetable for the oft-delayed vote designed to anchor Afghanistan's recovery from decades of war.

A vote for president looks possible for late September or October, despite a string of attacks on election workers and voter registrants that have been blamed on Taliban militants.

But Afghan officials say worries about logistics and intimidation by warlords could push the election of a 249-seat parliament -- a far more difficult vote to organize -- into next year.

The Middle East

* JERUSALEM -- Israel's Supreme Court shortened Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's term by a year in an election ruling that could further weaken his minority government and complicate a planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

The court said that elections must be held by November 2006 and that the original November 2007 date was based on a mistaken interpretation of the electoral law.

* TEL AVIV -- The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said he had no "magic wand" to persuade the Jewish state to at least tacitly acknowledge that it has atomic bombs or the means to make them. Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, came to Israel to call for a Middle East free of nuclear weapons. But ElBaradei said he had low expectations of getting Israel to stray from its secretive nuclear policy.

Africa

* KHARTOUM, Sudan -- The Sudanese government, under international pressure to help displaced people in the western region of Darfur, has ordered an end to restrictions on the movement of relief organizations and imports of relief supplies. Interior Minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein, who has special responsibility for Darfur, issued the decrees on relief work Monday night.

-- From News Services