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The paramount importance of disarming Iraq - Straw

'The paramount importance of disarming Iraq'

Speaking in an interview en route for Iran, the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw briefed journalists on his discussions with the Kuwaiti Government. He said that he was 'overwhelmed' by the warmth of the reception and that both Kuwait and Iran had both been invaded by the 'evil regime of Saddam Hussein's Iraq'.

Mr Straw said that 'the focus of any United Nations resolution, which we hope and believe will be achieved in respect of Iraq, will be the paramount need to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction'.

The Foreign Secretary said:

"The real focus of my discussions here, in Oman, in Cairo, and indeed in Paris early on Monday, as they will be later on today in Tehran, has been the readmission of the weapons inspectors and the enforcement of the will of the United Nations in that respect."


Mr Straw said that there wasn't 'a single government in the whole of this region' which is not fully aware of the 'evil nature' of the Iraqi regime and wishes to see Saddam Hussein disarmed. This was a view that he said had been 'wholly reinforced' by his visit to the region.

He said in conclusion:

"...well over a million people in the region have died as a result of the brutality and megalomania of Saddam Hussein."


**************

TRANSCRIPT

'THE PARAMOUNT IMPORTANCE OF DISARMING IRAQ' (09/10/02)


FOREIGN SECRETARY:
As you know, I arrived here last evening. I was overwhelmed by the warmth of the reception that I have received from His Highness the Amir, whom I met this morning, from my principal host, His Excellency Sheikh Sabah, the Acting Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, and Dr Sheikh Mohammed, the Minister of State. And the warmth of my welcome underlines the depth and strength of the longstanding relationship between Kuwait and the United Kingdom. I am here in Kuwait now; I am about to move on to the capital of Iran – Tehran. What do these two nations have in common? Many things, but they share the fact that they are two nations trying to live in peace and harmony with their neighbours, both invaded by the evil regime of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Thousands in Kuwait killed, wounded or missing as a result of the invasion here; hundreds of thousands killed, wounded or missing in Iran as a result of that also totally unjustified military action some years ago by the same regime. So these two nations – both Muslim – know all too much about the evil nature of the Saddam regime and the threat which it continues to pose.

There are many illustrations of this threat, but just one illustration I would give just now, which is that the International Commission of the Red Cross have detailed 605 individuals, Kuwaitis, who are missing as a result of the aggression by the Iraqis. There is a proper United Nations process by which the Iraqis are supposed to account for those 605. They normally fail to turn up at the meetings, but even when they do over the years they have accounted for just 3 of those people, so there are 602 which remain unaccounted for by the Iraqis. And what this illustrates really is the Iraqis' failure not only to respect the living, but also to respect the dead. And yes the focus of any United Nations resolution, which we hope and believe will be achieved in respect of Iraq, will be the paramount need to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. But we should never ever forget that alongside that there is the continuing and appalling record on human rights, or the absence of human rights, by the Iraqi regime to the regime's own people and to the people of the region as well.

QUESTION:
Mr Straw, is the return of the 602 unaccounted for a precondition of the return of the weapons inspectors to Iraq?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
It is not a precondition but it is an important matter which we wish to see resolved in any event. But there is a process. What we have to have is an engagement by the Iraqis about what has happened to those 602, and for sure we want to see an enforcement of those obligations in respect of Iraq. But what is the focus of the draft resolution which is currently being discussed informally amongst the Permanent Five members of the Security Council and the elected ten members of the Security Council, is about the obligations placed on Iraq to disarm themselves of their weapons of mass destruction and the need for the inspectors to go back, and the need too for the reintroduction of the inspectors to be backed by the threat, and maybe the reality, of the use of force.

QUESTION:
What sort of reassurances have you been able to give to governments about the commitment to Iraq in the event that Saddam Hussein's regime should fall?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
The real focus of my discussions here, in Oman, in Cairo, and indeed in Paris early on Monday, as they will be later on today in Tehran, has been the readmission of the weapons inspectors and the enforcement of the will of the United Nations in that respect. So we have not discussed in detail the 'what if'. Because what we are seeking to do, a point spelt out by President Bush in his speech, is pose the Iraqi regime with a very, very clear choice – disarmament of weapons of mass destruction or the enforcement of the will of the international community by the use of force. We prefer the first. We want to see a peaceful solution to this. But are we committed long term to the stability of this region? Yes we are and that is in a sense above all why we are so insistent on seeing the will of the United Nations being enforced because the greatest threat that Saddam Hussein poses is to his neighbours in the region and to his own people.

QUESTION:
You said that should Iraq fail to comply with the will of the international community then force would ensue. Have you had any commitments by any Arab countries, or any countries in the region, that might participate in such a move?

FOREIGN SECRETARY:
I haven't been discussing the issue of military involvement. What I know, however, and my trip has reinforced this, is that there is not a single government in the whole of this region which is not fully aware of the evil nature of the Iraqi regime and wishes to see Saddam Hussein disarmed. And that conviction, which I knew to be true before I came, has been wholly reinforced by my visit to the region. And I just repeat again, here we are in Kuwait, a country with an honourable and peaceful history, invaded for no reason at all 12 years ago. I am going to Iran, a proud and important country, again the subject of a gratuitous invasion by the Saddam Hussein regime. And what has been the consequence of this? It has been that well over a million people in the region have died as a result of the brutality and megalomania of Saddam Hussein.


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