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A tough new resolution on Iraq - Jack Straw IV

'A tough new resolution on Iraq'

In a radio interview the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, reaffirmed that the overwhelming preference of both the UK and the US was for a peaceful resolution to the problem of Saddam Hussein and his weapons programme.

However he reiterated at the same time that the only reason Iraq had begun to show signs of compliance was that the diplomatic effort so far had been backed up by the legal use of force.

Mr Straw said:

"I've always made it clear that we will always in the United Kingdom act within our obligations in international law."

"But we have to maintain our options if in the event, which I do not believe will happen, the United Nations fails to meet its responsibilities today to deal effectively with the defiance by Saddam Hussein of international law."



The government of Saudi Arabia seem to be backing down on their offer to allow its territory to be used to launch offensive action against Iraq because they fear a backlash in public opinion? That must be rather worrying for you mustn't it?

No, because we're not in the moment at the stage of taking military action against Iraq.

Building up our forces aren't we?

We've been working extremely closely with the United States Secretary of State Colin Powell in robust line by line negotiations with France and Russia, China and the elected members of Security Council, aiming for a widely supported resolution requiring Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime to end their defiance, not of the US or the UK or Russia or France, but of the United Nations. If we get that resolution, if it is properly supported and sets out a clear sequence of obligations upon Saddam Hussein and he then follows those and complies with the obligations which I hope will be imposed, that, frankly will be the end of the matter.

And America will bring all its forces home again, will it?

What America does with its own forces is a matter for America, but let me make this very clear point, that over the last nine months there has been much speculation about the imminence of military action. And I've given you an interview almost once a week to say that military action is not about to take place. Instead, what we are working for is for the United Nations to lay down the law and for Iraq then to be compliant with it. But I also add this point. To the extent that there has been movement at least in words by the Iraqi regime, as there has been on 14 September with Saddam saying he might comply with a resolution even though he was denying that four days before, to that extent it has only happened because we are backing diplomacy with the threat of force, justified and spelt out in the United Nations charter.

Right, so in other words if we get that resolution through, if the inspectors start to move in to Iraq then we can expect to see America stop its build up in the region? And as their most influential ally one assumes we're influential in this whole area, so is that what we would be urging?

That would be unwise in my opinion for this reason I've just said. The only reason we've got this far with words at least uttered by Saddam Hussein that he may comply with new United Nations resolutions when just a matter of weeks ago he was saying number one he wouldn't comply is the credible threat of force. And it was Kofi Annan who said wisely that sometimes sensitive diplomacy has to be backed to be effective by the threat of force.

But the trouble is that the impression that one has is that if America then decides to take action in and of itself without specific UN approval, we will support that action.

I've always made it clear that we will always in the United Kingdom act within our obligations in international law. But we have to maintain our options if in the event, which I do not believe will happen, the United Nations fails to meet its responsibilities today to deal effectively with the defiance by Saddam Hussein of international law.

But we're not there and I've also said to you on many occasions our overwhelming preference, as is that of the United States I am certain, is for there to be a new tough resolution or resolutions before the United Nations so this can be resolved within the immediate framework of the UN. That is a far better way for it to happen.

But notwithstanding the fact that when you see the new Archbishop of Canterbury writing in the sort of terms in which he's written in the Daily Telegraph this morning, warning that a pre-emptive strive against Saddam could rapidly and uncontrollably spiral down in to chaos. There would be fears of a nuclear conflagration, criticism that we'd be behaving like a colonial power. He's speaking for a lot of people isn't he, when he uses language like that? That must give you pause for thought mustn't it?

I've read the Archbishop's article and I hope that everybody pauses for thought before they contemplate the possibly of military action. And for those of us who have that direct responsibility, the burden is a very intense one. And nobody should ever contemplate military action lightly.

But I would just make this point. Later today I'm going to the Balkans where I'll be visiting the former republic of Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Kosovo and those three territories tell their own story about first of all the world standing back from the terrible atrocities that were going on, or being perpetrated by Serbia. Then chaos and indecision by the international community in Bosnia and then finally led by our own Prime Minister so far as Kosovo is concerned we finally got concerted international action.

Many people at the time said should we be taking this? Is it proportionate, is the military action proportionate to the problem? There was bombing for seventy eight days I recall. You, I remember, repeatedly were asking Robin Cook, and quite rightly is this justified, is it necessary. And yet at the end of it it was palpable that it was necessary and it's only as a result of that military action that was taken in Kosovo that we now have relative peace and a prosperous prospect of a future for the whole of the Balkans.

A very quick thought about an interview that Ariel Sharon, the Prime Minister of Israel, has given to The Times. He says that if a war in Iraq happens the next target immediately after must be Tehran. What do you say to Mr Sharon?

Well I understand why people in Israel are frightened, but I profoundly disagree with him. And I think it would be the gravest possible error to think in that way. I know that Iran has a very hostile attitude to the existence to the State of Israel. But I also know that Iran, a country which I visited three times in the last twelve months, is a nation in a state of transition.

It has an elected government which Iraq palpably does not. That elected government is seeking to exert its authority over the whole of the government of Iran including the armed forces and the security apparatus which at the moment is controlled effectively by the religious authority under the leader Khomeni, rather than the President Khatami, so I think that the way to ensure proper progress with Iran is not by that kind of hostile threat, but by the process and strategy of constructed and critical engagement that we're involved in.


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