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Downing St Iraq Briefings 5-6 November

PRESS BRIEFING: 11AM WEDNESDAY 6 NOVEMBER 2002

IRAQ

Asked if we were expecting a revised text of a new UN Security Council Resolution this afternoon and whether we saw this as the last chance to achieve what we wanted, the PMOS said that as he understood it, a meeting of the Permanent Five members of the Security Council was due to take place today at 2.45pm (GMT) in New York at which it was not impossible that a revised UK/US text might be circulated. People had to exercise a little patience and wait and see what happened. That said, the signals from New York were hopeful. We believed we might be reaching the end of the endgame and that we were closer now to having a new Resolution than we had been in the past.

Questioned about the need for a new Resolution, the PMOS said that the reason we needed a new Resolution was, firstly, to give the UN Weapons Inspectors a new mandate so that they could return to Iraq and do their job properly. Secondly, given Saddam Hussein was in breach of a number of existing Resolutions, it was important for the UN - as the embodiment of the international community - to show its resolve and determination to deal with the issue of Weapons of Mass Destruction. They were a real threat and clearly could not be ignored. If, as was looking more likely, a new Resolution was passed, it would be for Saddam Hussein to decide how he should be disarmed - but disarmed he would be.

The PMOS said that we had reached this point in the process as a result of some extremely intensive diplomatic negotiations. It was fair to say that the key paragraphs had been negotiated line by line by the Foreign Secretary, Colin Powell and the French Foreign Minister. Over the last few weeks they had been speaking at least every day, often several times a day. The Prime Minister believed that Jack Straw, Sir Jeremy Greenstock and his team had done a fantastic job. We had to be a little patient as we waited to see whether things would move forward, as we hoped they would. Yes, the noises were encouraging, but we had been at this stage before and he did not want to inflate expectations.

PRESS BRIEFING: 3.45PM TUESDAY 5 NOVEMBER 2002

IRAQ

Asked for the Prime Minister's reaction to Dr Rowan Williams' remarks about Iraq today, the PMOS said the Prime Minister understood that some people had a number of concerns about the prospect of any action against Iraq. However, as Jack Straw had pointed out this morning, we were not at or near the point of any military action. Moreover, as the Prime Minister had said at his news conference in Sedgefield last month, he hated the prospect of war and hoped that Saddam Hussein would recognise and obey the outstanding UN Resolutions so that a military campaign could be avoided. Obviously the best way for that to happen was for Saddam to recognise that not only was the international community united in demanding that his weapons of mass destruction be destroyed, but also that he would face the consequences if they weren't. Clearly it was a very difficult issue. But, as the Prime Minister had said in Sedgefield, it was one where he felt morally bound to ensure that the threat to international security did not increase.

ENDS

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