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Jack Straw IV On Zimbabwe and action against Iraq

Foreign Secretary comments on intervention in Zimbabwe and action against Iraq

In an interview for BBC radio on 22 August, the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw answered questions about the Government's reaction to the deepening crisis in Zimbabwe and about the UK's attitude toward regime change in Iraq.

Read the interview the Foreign Secretary gave to the BBC in full below:

********

QUESTION:

What is your response to the situation in Zimbabwe?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:

This is a desperate situation and it's getting worse. It is hitting white farmers at the moment, we hear a great deal about that in the news and their plight is terrible but as they are the first to say, the plight of their own black employees who are being thrown off the land is even worse.

And when I talk as I spoke yesterday to the Foreign Ministers of South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique, their own sense of frustration about what is happening and the way in which Mugabe's bad and mad economic and social policies are impoverishing not just Zimbabwe, but the whole of the region, is palpable.

But let me just use the example of South Africa because in the end it's future had to be in the hands of the South African people and it was not until that a realisation, in this case by the white political elite who'd seized power in South Africa, that there had to be a democratic path for South Africa's future, that you then had negotiations between F W de Clerk and Mandela leading to now a much more benign path.

What we have to do is to support the forces of democracy in Zimbabwe meanwhile to sustain the people against starvation meanwhile and increasingly to isolate the Mugabe regime and that is exactly what we're doing in concert with the international community.

QUESTION:

Not very effectively. I mean the fact is there is international law that allows them to travel around the country and around the world.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:

Look, my frustration with that is the same as everybody else's. But let me just say what we are doing. First of all there is an immediate and mounting humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe.

What have we done the British Government with Clare Short? We have more than doubled the food aid and humanitarian aid we're providing to Zimbabwe. That is a way of ensuring that the madness and badnesses of Mugabe do not impact to an even greater degree on the poor people of Zimbabwe.

Secondly what we have done to a much greater extent that anybody suggested we'd be able to achieve is isolate Mugabe. We've got the Commonwealth to suspend them from the councils of the Commonwealth. That was done by African leaders, Presidents Obasenji and Mbeke of Nigeria and South Africa. Everybody said they wouldn't do it, they did do it. They stood up against Mugabe. And then inside the European Union because Mugabe stole the election and that was obvious the European Union which where the other fourteen traditionally actually stood back from the issue and said this is an argument, domestic argument between Britain, former Colonial power, and Zimbabwe, leave it to them, they've joined with us. We also imposed sanctions in March and at the end of July at my request the sanctions were considerably tightened. And those sanctions are targeted against the leaders of Zanu PF, not against the people of Zimababwe.

QUESTION:

But again not very effective in lots of ways and again not necessarily your fault. What the Conservatives say is to point to things like Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan where we got involved. We're not actually doing anything practical, physical in terms of Zimbabwe.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:

Well I listened very carefully to Michael on many occasions and he normally says you've got to do something. Well we are doing things. We're doing all the practical things that we can. If the point that's being made with Kosovo and Afghanistan is that we should assemble a military task force and invade Zimbabwe then the Conservative Foreign Affairs Spokesman had better say so.

QUESTION:

And if they did you'd call that nonsense.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:

It would lead to a blood bath. It would lead to the immediate declaration of Mugabe as a hero of the whole of Southern Africa. There'd be no international coalition for it. I can't think of anything that Mugabe would more relish than the idea that Western powers would seek to get together some kind of military invasion force.

We weren't able when we were the Colonial power in face of a rebellion by the white settlers in 1965 when the circumstances were much more propitious for a military invasion, and we couldn't possibly do it now.

But if Mr Ancram is saying invade, military action, well let him say so. If he's not saying so then he must accept that the comparison with Kosovo and Afghanistan is just silly and meanwhile what we've got to do is, is to ensure that the focus is on Mugabe and what he is doing. Yes it is frustrating, yes it is, but we have increasingly to isolate the Mugabe regime, that's what we're doing.

We've got increasingly to help the people of Zimbabwe and meanwhile we've got to support the forces of democracy in there because if we and the Americans and the European Union and everybody else is saying, the crucial thing there is that there should be free and fair elections held as soon as possible, so the Zimbabwe people can choose who should lead them.

QUESTION:

Let me take you to the subject of Iraq. You said there is no international coalition for an attack on Zimbabwe, equally there is no international coalition for an attack on Iraq and yet our approach to that seems to be, and I say seems to be because we don't seem to be quite certain yet, that if America chooses to attack Iraq we will go along with them.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:

The Prime Minister, I and many others have made it quite clear that no decisions have been made on military action either here or in the United States and President Bush repeated that point yesterday where, following his meeting about quite other things in Crawford, he said that we had to be and he was going to be very patient.

What we should be focusing on at the moment is an overwhelming international consensus against what Saddam Hussein has been doing and failing to do in Iraq. And let's be clear about the case against Saddam. He is probably the only tyrant in the world now living who has gratuitously invaded another country, Kuwait, moved in to it, who used biological chemical weapons against another so called enemy, the Iranians, and then who's also gassed his own people. Who is the subject of nine separate United Nations Security Council resolutions with twenty seven separate obligations on him of which he's flagrantly flouting twenty four. He kicked out the weapons' inspectors three years ago and the world believes and we believe that he may well be continuing to develop exactly those weapons which the inspectors were there to discover.

QUESTION:

Some of the world believes that.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:

Well if you read what the inspectors have been saying, if you heard Hans Blix, the former chief weapons inspector yesterday then that would be appreciated.

QUESTION:

Other chief weapons' inspectors have other views but there we are. No, everybody agrees he's a thoroughly nasty man, the question is whether we should be attacking.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:

The crucial issue here is weapons inspection. If Saddam Hussein allows weapons inspectors back without conditions, without restriction on them, they're able to do their job properly, then the circumstances will change because what everybody's concerned about is yes it was a terribly bad regime, I always have to say of course there are other bad regimes we are concerned about, but the particularly the threat which Saddam Hussein poses from both his capability and his record to the security of the region and the security of the world. And the best way of trying to isolate and reduce that threat is by the introduction of weapons' inspection. So it's a matter for Saddam Hussein purely.

QUESTION:

But the American view seems to be that what matters here is their expression regime change. Our view is different from that. Our view is that if he allows weapons' inspectors in then that is fine. The ambition, the British Government's ambition is not regime change, it is a different situation in Iraq as far as the weapons inspectors are saying.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:

If you're asking me would I prefer there to be a different regime in Iraq then of course, we all would.

QUESTION:

But that is not an object of British foreign policy.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:

That would be one way of resolving the intense risk that Iraq poses. However, the key part of our approach is to get the weapons' inspectors back.

QUESTION:

And if he says yes and if he meets those requirements then as far as we're concerned that is fine and we can look in other areas.

FOREIGN SECRETARY:

Well it's not impossible of course. And so far all the suggestions are that he's not saying yes, he's saying yes conditionally, he's messing around, he's messing Kofi Annan around, but if he were to say yes, if what the Prime Minister has said must happen which is the reintroduction of the weapons' inspectors without condition, without restriction are then able to do their job well for sure circumstances change.

QUESTION:

Right, so in other words if he does enough to satisfy the United Nations we would not want to attack Iraq?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:

Well we're now getting really in to the realms of hypotheses. Why we have to say military action remains an option as is because of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. So if there is another way of dealing with that threat then plainly the case for military action recedes.

QUESTION:

Just a very quick final thought. Ought there to be a debate in the House of Commons before any action, if any action, is taken?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:

What there will be a debate in the House of Commons if any decisions are made by the Cabinet in respect of military action.

ENDS


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