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'A way out for Iraq' - Jack Straw BBC Interview

'A way out for Iraq'

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has described the idea that war with Iraq could be averted if Saddam Hussein voluntarily went into exile as a 'very sensible suggestion'.

Speaking in a radio interview the Foreign Secretary said that unpalatable as it was, he broadly supported the suggestion from the US administration if it meant avoiding war. He said:

"...war is literally a last choice and we want to do everything we can to resolve this issue of Iraq's disarmament of its weapons of mass destruction by peaceful means."


'A WAY OUT FOR IRAQ' (20/01/03)

Donald Rumsfeld has said that if Saddam Hussein were to voluntarily go into exile it would avoid the need for a war. Would that be a fair trade in your view Mr Straw?

I think it is a very sensible suggestion which we've got to examine and although of course it'd be unpalatable to see any degree of immunity being offered to the Saddam Hussein regime as Donald Rumsfeld said if the alternative is a war I think most people would swallow hard and accept that it was in his words a fair trade.

And let me say this to you, that what Defence Secretary Rumsfeld's comments also emphasise is that across the US Administration as well as for the British Government, war is literally a last choice and we want to do everything we can to resolve this issue of Iraq's disarmament of its weapons of mass destruction by peaceful means. But we also know that we have to keep turning up the pressure because it's only pressure that Iraq responds to.

The practical point here surely is that it seems unimaginable that Saddam is going to think of going, although it seem as though the Saudis are working quite hard to try to find some way of getting him out. Do you think that there's any chance at all that that kind of effort will bear fruit?

Well first of all Jim can I just say this. What seems unimaginable in advance often seems rather obvious in hindsight and so you know history's full of things which in advance seemed unimaginable.

We don't know what's going to happen. What I believe however is that as we have to prepare to take military action in order to enforce the will of the United Nations and be absolutely resolved to do so across the international community if the continuing failure to comply fully with the Security Council resolution continues. We also have to explore every other means of resolving this.

And if as I read the Saudi government are keen on encouraging Saddam to leave Iraq, well so much the better and certainly when I talked to other Arab leaders they all say that they would wish it to be resolved in that way and they are trying to send messages to Saddam.

Now the big question is will he hear them in time. Because one thing is certain, the man can not continue in the way that he is, failing fully to comply with United Nations resolutions and cocking a snook at the international community.

But you are in a position to confirm that the Saudis are trying quite hard to find a way out for him?

No. I'm not confirming that. It's for them to confirm, not me. I'm simply saying that if they are doing that, then, yes, that would be a good effort.

But I know for certain from discussions which I've had not with the Saudi leaders to whom I haven't talked, but other Arab leaders, that they all are sending Saddam messages to say look the game is up. We know that you have had and continue to have weapons of mass destruction. We know that you are in clear breach of a whole sequence of United Nations Security Council resolutions and in the interests of your own people as well as the rule of law in this region and international security, you have to comply with Security Council resolutions.

Isn't it clear Mr Straw that when you talk to your Foreign Minister colleagues in New York later today you're going to find the Germans and the French taking a very different line from our own?

No I don't accept that. Let me say there are now four members of the European Union on the Security Council, Germany and France and Spain as well as the United Kingdom. Spain are in virtually exactly the same position as are we.

It's an error to suggest that Germany and France are in the same position as each other. Germany's for sure taken the position it has although it also at the NATO Council at the end of November in Prague represented by Chancellor Schroeder fully endorsed the contents of Security Council resolution Fourteen Forty One. And I saw Chancellor Schroeder put his hand up to that.

As far as France is concerned they were active in negotiating the terms of Fourteen Forty One and they have always made it clear that if there is evidence of further material breach then they accept that the last paragraph of that resolution which is Paragraph Thirteen which talks about serious consequences if Iraq fails to comply with the resolution, will have to be enforced and that can only mean military action.

What do you hope will come out of the meeting of Foreign Ministers, those Foreign Ministers most acutely concerned with this in New York today?

Well what is on the agenda formally is a review of the work of the Security Council in respect of the fight against terrorism following the 11 September. So we're looking very closely at a report which has been prepared by a committee chaired by our United Kingdom Ambassador Sir Jeremy Greenstock and going through the laggards who have failed to comply fully with that resolution.

But what I hope will come out and this is the key point of the speech which I'll be making later on today, is a recognition by the international community of the links between international terrorism and rogue states. We can't close our eyes to this.

People have questioned whether there is any evidence that Iraq was involved with Al-Qaeda. Well there wasn't any direct evidence of that. But what I know for sure is that rogue states and tyrannical leaders like Saddam Hussein first of all provide a terrible example to terrorists.

Secondly by proliferating developing weapons of mass destruction they provide a very tempting arsenal for terrorists to use. And the third point is this. I know for certain that if terrorists can get their hands on nerve gases on other weapons of mass destruction, even on nuclear bombs, then they will be tempted to use them. So the link is very clear and it's something on which the international community has to take action.


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