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Jack Straw: Use of force in Iraq is not inevitable

Straw: 'use of force in Iraq is not inevitable'

Following his talks with the Egyptian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister in Cairo, the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, said that Saddam Hussein had been given a 'a very clear choice' on the issue of weapons of mass destruction.

Mr Straw told journalists that his discussions had been 'dominated' by the question of Iraq and the issue of Israel-Palestine.

He said he had been struck by the concerns felt by the Egyptian administration over the dangers posed by Iraq, and, in consequence, the need for Iraq to be disarmed.

The Foreign Secretary also repeated his concern at the recent Israeli incursions into the Gaza. He said:

"...of course all of us accept the need for Israel to ensure its own security, but we do not accept that there is a case as a result of that for Israel to act disproportionately or unnecessarily to place at risk the lives of innocent people."

He added that in his talks he had also discussed ways of taking the peace process forward at what was clearly a difficult time.

On the issue of Iraq, Mr Straw said that the Saddam's regieme was the only one he could think of which has launched missile attacks on five of its neighbours. He added that Iraq had invaded two of its neighbours, which were both Muslim countries.

The Foreign Secretary said:

"He [Saddam Hussein] has now been presented with a very clear choice by the international community, which I hope and believe shall be backed by a new resolution of the Security Council."



As you will be aware, I have had three meetings today, the most important of which was with President Mubarak whom I saw for just over an hour, with my old and good friend Ahmed Mahir, Foreign Minister of Egypt, and with Amr Moussa, Secretary General of the Arab League. This is part of a visit today amongst friends here, in Jordan and in Kuwait, where of course there are bilateral matters to discuss, which I discussed particularly with Mr Mahir today, but the discussions have been dominated by the need for Iraq to disarm of its weapons of mass destruction, and by the issue of Israel-Palestine and the dire situation in the occupied territories.

So far as the situation in Iraq is concerned, I am struck, as I always am when I am talking to Arab friends, about the concerns felt here about the nature of the Iraqi regime and the need for the Iraqi regime to accept its obligations clearly in international law to disarm of its weapons of mass destruction. And as I often remind everybody, Iraq is the only regime I can think of which has launched missile attacks on five of its neighbours and has, within the memory of all of us, invaded two of its neighbours, both of which by the way were other Muslim countries.

On the situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories, I would just like to repeat my concern at the disturbing news about the further Israeli incursion into the Gaza, and I am awaiting further reports about that. But of course all of us accept the need for Israel to ensure its own security, but we do not accept that there is a case as a result of that for Israel to act disproportionately or unnecessarily to place at risk the lives of innocent people. But alongside that I discussed with President Mubarak, with Foreign Minister Mahir and with Secretary General Amr Moussa the way in which we can take forward, even at this very difficult time, a process which should lead to a condition we all want to see, which is a secure state of Israel, alongside a viable independent and proud state of Palestine. There are currently discussions going on within the Quartet to produce this roadmap, but there was, I am very pleased to say, satisfaction at the remarks of my Prime Minister Tony Blair, in his speech a week ago at our Labour Party Conference in Blackpool about the need for there to be a beginning of Final Status negotiations by the year end, I would add if that is at all possible, and obviously with President Mubarak, Foreign Minister Mahir, and Secretary General Amr Moussa we discussed how progress in that respect could be made.

Mr Straw, you said earlier this week that UN resolutions should be respected and abided by by other countries, not only Iraq. Now Israel has not been exactly doing that. What would you say to that?

I would say two things. First of all, there is a distinction within the Charter of the United Nations, which I always keep with me and have in my pocket because it is extremely important, this is international law. There is a distinction in the Charter of the United Nations between Chapter 7, which requires, places clear obligations normally on one member state or institution, and backs those obligations with a prospective use of force; and Chapter 6 resolutions which are about the specific resolution of disputes. The obligations on Iraq are unique, because they are Chapter 7 obligations, and Iraq has to understand that it must abide by those obligations or else accept the consequences. At the same time, we are completely committed to the full implementation of 242, 338, 3097 and so on. I would just say this, that if you look at those they place obligations not just on Israel, Israel must accept its obligations, but also on the Palestinians and also on every country in the Arab world. And what we are working to achieve, as Chapter 6 lays out, is a specific resolution of a longstanding conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

How much truth is there in saying that British foreign policy has become recently a mere mirror reflection of what Washington wants?


Is war with Iraq inevitable, regardless of the UN?

The United Nations Charter itself recognises that in order to secure a peace, that peace sometimes has to be backed by the threat, and occasionally by the use of force. Now the use of force in Iraq is not inevitable. President Bush made that crystal clear in his speech yesterday, which I greatly welcome, where he set out effectively that there was a clear choice for Saddam Hussein. There are obligations on Saddam Hussein, not from the United States, not from the United Kingdom, not from my host here from Egypt, but from the international community, from the Security Council, from the United Nations, for Saddam Hussein to disarm of his weapons of mass destruction. He has been refusing to do so for the last 11 years. He has now been presented with a very clear choice by the international community, which I hope and believe shall be backed by a new resolution of the Security Council. He has to recognise the nature of that choice. From what I know about him and his regime, as sadly we have learnt about other regimes in the past, is that sometimes in order to secure a peaceful outcome, which is what we want and what I know the United States government wants, you have to make it clear that if you don't get that peaceful outcome then force may have to be used.


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