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Straw: Iraq in further material breach


Straw: Iraq in further material breach

Briefings by the UN chief weapons inspector leave no doubt that Iraq has failed to meet its obligations and is in further material breach of resolution 1441, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has told MPs.

In a statement to the House of Commons, Mr Straw reminded Parliament of Iraq's obligations under UN resolution 1441. He also spoke of the recent developments in Europe and in NATO and insisted that even at this late stage war was not a foregone conclusion.

"The prospect of military action causes obvious anxiety - as it should - here in the UK, amongst our Allies and in the region. I still hope and pray for a peaceful outcome to this crisis. This will only be possible if we maintain unrelenting pressure on Saddam - including the threat of force - rather than casting around for excuses to delay."

On proposals from France and Germany to increase the number of weapons inspectors in Iraq, Mr Straw said:

"They are unrealistic and impractical. They shift the burden of proof from Iraq to the inspectors. And they send Saddam Hussein the signal that defiance pays. What is the point of sending three times as many inspectors for Saddam to deceive?

"Iraq was found guilty in possession of WMD twelve years ago. The role of inspectors has always been to verify Iraqi compliance, not to engage in a 'game of catch as catch can,' to use Dr Blix's terms."

He concluded:

"A peaceful resolution of this crisis remains in Saddam Hussein's hands. Full Iraqi compliance with the terms of UNSCR 1441 will deliver the outcome the UK and the entire international community wish to see: an Iraq no longer posing a threat to its neighbours and the region."

FULL STATEMENT TO PARLIAMENT FOLLOWS

'THE INESCAPABLE CONCLUSION' THAT IRAQ IS IN BREACH OF RESOLUTION 1441 (13/02/03)


With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement about Iraq.

Mr Speaker, the Security Council will meet in New York tomorrow to hear the latest reports from the Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC, Dr Hans Blix, and the Director General of the IAEA, Dr Mohammed El-Baradei. I will be joining my fellow Foreign Ministers for this meeting.

Security Council Resolution 1441 - agreed three months ago - placed the onus squarely on Iraq to co-operate fully and actively with UN inspectors in the disarmament of its weapons of mass destruction. It gave Iraq a final warning: comply with the UN's terms immediately or face 'serious consequences.' EU Foreign Ministers expressed clear support for this goal last month, when they declared unanimously that 'the Resolution gives an unambiguous message that the Iraqi Government has a final opportunity to resolve the crisis peacefully.'

Tomorrow's briefing will be the fourth update delivered by Dr Blix and Dr ElBaradei. The comprehensive reports they delivered on 27 January painted a disturbing picture. Most damning of all was Dr Blix's observation that Iraq 'appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance - not even today - of the disarmament which was demanded of it and which it needs to carry out to win the confidence of the world.'

Dr Blix concluded that the Iraqi declaration submitted on 7 December was 'mostly a reprint of earlier documents,' and did not 'contain any new evidence that would eliminate' unresolved 'questions or reduce their number.'

The central premise of Iraq's so-called disclosure - that Iraq possesses no WMD - was a lie. Nor was there any admission of Iraq's extensive efforts to develop WMD since the final UNSCOM inspections in December 1998.

Mr Speaker, Dr Blix and Dr El-Baradei said:

Iraq had failed to account for 6,500 bombs which could carry up to 1,000 tonnes of chemical agent, or for 8,500 litres of biological warfare agent and a large amount of growth media which could be used to produce about 5,000 litres of concentrated anthrax;

12 chemical rocket warheads unearthed by UNMOVIC inspectors were potentially, in Dr Blix's words, 'the tip of a submerged iceberg';
Iraq had failed to disclose 3,000 pages of documents relating to a nuclear weapons programme recently discovered in the grounds of the home of an Iraqi scientist;
despite repeated requests from UNMOVIC and the IAEA, all interviews with key Iraqi personnel were being conducted in the intimidating presence of official 'minders.'
and in contravention of UN resolutions, Iraq had developed missiles tested at ranges in excess of the 150 km limit specified in UN resolutions. I would remind the House that the Government drew attention to Iraqi work on such missiles in the dossier we published last September. We need to hear what Dr Blix has to say on this subject tomorrow. But if media reports are correct, the Al Samoud missile programme is clearly a serious breach of Iraq's obligations. We would expect rapid action to eliminate any such illegal programme.
Mr Speaker, in drafting resolution 1441, Security Council members took pains to set two clear tests for a further material breach by Iraq. First, if Iraq made 'false statements' or 'omissions' in the declaration it submitted on 7 December; second, if Iraq failed 'at any time to comply with, and co-operate fully in the implementation' of UNSCR 1441. The briefings by Dr Blix and Dr El Baradei - as well as Secretary Powell's presentation to the Security Council last week - leave no doubt that Iraq has failed to meet both tests. The conclusion is inescapable: Iraq is in further material breach of resolution 1441. We shall take full account of the reports of the chief Inspectors tomorrow.

Mr Speaker, the prospect of military action causes obvious anxiety - as it should - here in the UK, amongst our Allies and in the region. I still hope and pray for a peaceful outcome to this crisis. This will only be possible if we maintain unrelenting pressure on Saddam - including the threat of force - rather than casting around for excuses to delay.

We have only got this far in exposing the lies, deception and above all the danger from the Saddam regime by that pressure. For the international community now to lose its nerve would significantly undermine the authority of the United Nations and make the world a much more dangerous place, as dictators got the message that international law was mere words.

Mr Speaker, the Franco-German proposals announced this week to bolster the inspection regime will not deliver the assurance the world needs about Iraq's weapons. They are unrealistic and impractical. They shift the burden of proof from Iraq to the inspectors. And they send Saddam Hussein the signal that defiance pays. What is the point of sending three times as many inspectors for Saddam to deceive? As Dr Blix himself said on Monday, 'the principal problem is not the number of inspectors but rather the active co-operation of the Iraqi side, as we have said many times.'

Iraq was found guilty in possession of WMD twelve years ago. The role of inspectors has always been to verify Iraqi compliance, not to engage in a 'game of catch as catch can,' to use Dr Blix's terms.

I am glad to see that other proposals attributed to the French and German Governments - such as the establishment of a No Fly Zone over the whole of Iraq, and the insertion of armed UN troops - have now been officially denied.

Mr Speaker, let me now turn to the position within NATO. Discussion began in the Alliance in mid-January of the need for contingency planning to cope with potential threats to the security of a NATO Ally, Turkey, in the case of military action over Iraq. 16 NATO Allies - including 14 European nations - all supported this entirely reasonable and responsible proposal simply to set in hand some military planning for very limited defensive mutual assistance. France, Belgium and Germany have resisted, on the grounds that a NATO decision on this very limited mutual assistance would somehow pre-empt any Security Council consideration of Iraq's further material breach. Faced with this deadlock, Turkey on 10 February requested consultations under Article 4 of the Washington Treaty. These discussion are continuing, with the UK fully supporting Lord Robertson's efforts to achieve consensus.

But it is worth reminding the House that at the Prague Summit less than three months ago, NATO leaders pledged their full support for the implementation of UNSCR 1441 and their commitment to ensure full and immediate compliance by Iraq, without conditions or restrictions.

Mr Speaker, given the obvious risks, and the possibility that military action may prove necessary, we are keeping under very close review the safety and security of both visiting and resident British nationals in the Middle East. We make assessments on a case-by-case basis for each country in the region and will make announcements as necessary.

Mr Speaker, even at this late stage, armed intervention is not inevitable. A peaceful resolution of this crisis remains in Saddam Hussein's hands. Full Iraqi compliance with the terms of UNSCR 1441 will deliver the outcome the UK and the entire international community wish to see: an Iraq no longer posing a threat to its neighbours and the region.

But in the absence of full compliance by Saddam Hussein, UN inspectors will not be able to fulfil their mandate to verify Iraqi disarmament. In this event, UNSCR 1441 warns Iraq to expect 'serious consequences.' By now even Saddam Hussein can be under no illusions that this means disarmament by force.

ENDS

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