World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search

 


Agreement between EU leaders sends strong message

PM: 'points of agreement' between EU leaders send a strong message to Iraq


Every EU country recognises the threat posed by Saddam and weapons of mass destruction, and the possibility of them getting into the hands of terrorists said Prime Minister Tony Blair following a summit in Brussels. EU leaders agreed a common position on Iraq that included full support for United Nations Resolution 1441 and every aspect of it.

The Prime Minister said:

"People want this conflict resolved peacefully, but it can only be done on the basis of the full and total compliance with the United Nations and that means co-operating with the UN inspectors, not in part, but in full, not simply on process but on substance.

"Iraq will be disarmed of weapons of mass destruction, whether it is done peacefully or by conflict, by military action, is up to Saddam and the Iraqi regime."

Read a transcript of the press conference given by Tony Blair in Brussels below:

PRIME MINISTER:

First of all can I give my thanks to the Greek Presidency for having organised this special Council this evening, which I think was very useful for us, to discuss the situation concerning Iraq. And although obviously I think people know well the positions of different countries, I think it is worth making the points that we all have in common. The first is that every country recognises the threat posed by Saddam and weapons of mass destruction and the link between those weapons and the possibility of their getting into the hands of terrorists. Secondly, there was obviously full support, reiterated support, for the United Nations Resolution 1441 and every aspect of it.

Thirdly, it was very clear that there was again total support for the principle underpinning that resolution, which is that the co-operation by Iraq has to be full and unconditional. And there was an acceptance I think again by everyone around the table that there was not that full co-operation as yet. And fourthly, there was a very clear view, again as has been expressed most recently in the European Union communiqué of 27 January that this is the final opportunity for Iraq to disarm peacefully. And as Kofi Annan told us earlier, if Iraq continues to defy, the Security Council will have to face its responsibilities. I think the other thing that is important is that I hope very much that those points of agreement, whatever the differences, those points of agreement send a strong message and signal to Iraq. This really is the final opportunity to disarm peacefully. People want this conflict resolved peacefully, but it can only be done on the basis of the full and total compliance with the United Nations and that means co-operating with the UN inspectors, not in part, but in full, not simply on process but on substance. And I think there is nothing more important for us in Europe at the moment than to send that strong unequivocal signal. Iraq will be disarmed of weapons of mass destruction, whether it is done peacefully or by conflict, by military action, is up to Saddam and the Iraqi regime.

QUESTION:

How long is this final offer on offer for, what is the duration of this indefinite period, and do you personally agree with Prime Minister Berlusconi who apparently said that Saddam Hussein would never disarm because he needs his weapons to keep his people down?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I have always been sceptical about Saddam disarming, for the simple reason that we have been round this track for 12 years and there is no doubt at all of the complete misery that Iraqi people live under as a result of Saddam, the children that die needlessly, thousands of them, the people that are dependent on food aid in a country that was once wealthy, and the appalling repression and denial of basic human and political rights. So I don't think there is any doubt we should be sceptical about this, but nonetheless because we have wanted to resolve this peacefully, we have given the final opportunity there. And the issue of timing, well I think it is important, as I say, to make it clear that the time necessary is the time necessary to make a judgement as to whether that co-operation is full, complete and unconditional.

QUESTION:

As you know, President Chirac has said he would oppose a second resolution today, what can you do in the next few weeks to bring him round?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well there isn't the issue of a second resolution today, so that issue doesn't arise at the present time. But the most important thing is to bear in mind Resolution 1441. That said it was a final opportunity, it said Iraq had to comply fully, unconditionally, immediately. If Iraq does not do so then Iraq is in breach, and I hope that all members of the Security Council take their responsibility seriously in that regard.

QUESTION:

You say that you wish to have a peaceful resolution, but anybody hearing you in the last day or two talk about the cost of non-war, as you did to the Labour Party Conference, will get a sense that in your own mind that you think morally it would be better in any circumstances, war or not, if Saddam were to go. I understand you said something at the dinner tonight that if Saddam stays Iraqis will pay with their lives. In reality, haven't you made your mind up, that it is war, you think it is morally right that there will be war?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I think that the issue is this. Look, to act against Saddam we have to act in forcing the UN will, and the UN will is on the issue of disarmament. That is therefore the basis upon which we are permitted to act on the basis of disarming Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological, nuclear weapons. On the issue however of what is the moral consequence of war, my answer to people who say there is a moral consequence in war, which of course there is, is there is a moral consequence in keeping Saddam there, because Iraqis are dying under Saddam. And if you think that there are 4 million exiles from Iraq in a country with a population of just over, what, 23 million, then that is some indication of the appalling suffering of the people there. So as I said on Saturday, we have to act in accordance with the UN mandate, but if someone is going to say to me don't you think the moral consequences of war are severe, my answer to them is the moral consequences of leaving Saddam in place are severe, and severest most of all for the Iraqi people.

QUESTION:

You have said it is important to send the right signal to Iraq, and a strong signal. Does the suggestion that more time is needed for more thorough inspections send the right signal, and if not, why not?

PRIME MINISTER:

Look, let us deal with this issue because I think it is a very important question that is at the heart of some of the differences if you like. The job of the inspectors is not to go in there and as one put it round the table, sniff out what weapons there are. That is not the job of the inspectors. The inspectors' task is to be given the full co-operation of the country whose armaments they are inspecting, and on that basis shut it down. Now if there is full co-operation then the issue of time doesn't arise, the inspectors take as long as they want, and the examples that are given for example of South Africa where with I think 9 inspectors they took 3 years to do it. Fine. No problem at all because there was full co-operation. If on the other hand there is not full co-operation, then the issue of time is simply the time necessary to make a judgement as to whether that co-operation is there or not, because if it is not there then Iraq is in breach of the UN resolution. And you will have seen what Dr Blix said on Friday, which is that if there was full co-operation then actually the time for inspections may be quite short. So you don't get to the issue of the time for the inspectors to do their work until you have resolved the issue as to whether they are co-operating or not, because in the absence of full co-operation, as has been said and indeed accepted by everyone tonight, the inspectors can't do their work. They are not a detective agency that can roam around the whole of Iraq trying to sniff the stuff out, it is not what they are supposed to do. They are supposed to be told what is the position, what weapons they have, and then the inspectors are able to do their work. And they have not even yet given a proper declaration of the weapons left over from 1998. We still don't know what has happened to thousands of munitions that we know they had in 1998.

QUESTION:

Can you tell us how much anger or ill-feeling around the European Union table there was tonight towards France, and can you tell us how helpful or unhelpful you think France has been in the last few weeks and months?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well because we are at a European Council and because I am naturally diplomatic, and in any event because I don't think it is going to help if we simply just fall out with each other, I am not going to make any comments on the French position. They have got their position. We have got our position. What I do think is important, however, is that the one thing that we can all come behind is the Resolution 1441. And all I say, and I thought Kofi Annan made this point very, very powerfully when he spoke to us, is that if the will of the UN is to mean anything it has to be upheld. And we can't get into a situation where having stated in such strong terms as we did in 1441 that Iraq had to comply, we cannot be in the situation where Iraq refuses to comply and then we do nothing. If that happens, then the consequences are very, very serious because it means the next time that we try and enforce the will of the international community, people will not believe it.

QUESTION:

Has there been spoken about any military build-up by the Council?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I think it was simply accepted that the military build-up is there. And it was also accepted very strongly, I think the other point I should have said that everyone has in common is that without the military build-up, nobody was in any doubt we wouldn't have had the inspectors anywhere near Baghdad.

QUESTION:

You seem to be laying a lot of stress tonight on 1441 and rather less stress on the need for a second resolution. Are you preparing the ground for saying 1441 is really enough and we don't need to go for a second resolution?

PRIME MINISTER:

No, I have always said we want in circumstances where we take action, that it is good to have a unified Security Council behind us. And all I say to you is there is still a lot of debate to be had on that issue yet.

QUESTION:

Just on the question of timing, and you have been very clear tonight about the need for Iraq to start showing full co-operation, you must have in your mind some idea of how much time you are prepared to give them to do that. Is it a week, two weeks, a month, three months?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think I said before it is not an arbitrary time. Though I do just point out to you that if this process had worked as it was supposed to work, as 1441 implied, it would have worked in this way. On 8 December Iraq would have made a complete and honest declaration of all the armaments that they had. The inspectors would then have been interviewing the people concerned with the Iraqi programme, they would have had the opportunity to discuss with them exactly what had happened to the programme, what had happened to the weapons, how they were constructed, how they could be dismantled, and then the inspectors would be visiting various places in Iraq, accompanied by Iraqis telling them where the stuff was so that they could shut it down and close it down. Now that is actually how it should have worked, that is how the inspections process is supposed to work. So I am not getting into the business of setting some arbitrary time limit, but what was interesting about tonight's meeting is that in reality not a single person round the table disputed the fact that at present Iraq is not fully co-operating as it should have.

QUESTION:

On the earlier question, the Foreign Secretary earlier today said 1441 gives you all the authorisation you need for military action. You have just said it would be good to have a unified Security Council behind you. Does that mean you would accept a unified Council decision that there was a material breach of 1441 as sufficient mandate for action?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think Jack will have said exactly the same as I said, but the issue of what wording you put in a second resolution, that is for another matter, but all I am saying is throughout I have wanted to resolve this in the UN and the simplest way of getting the UN in the right place is to take 1441 and follow the logic through, and that is what should govern the second resolution. And I am still waiting for the answer to the question, if they are not fully co-operating and 1441 says they are, and 1441 also incidentally says if they are not fully co-operating they are in material breach, I still don't know what the answer to the question is. If everyone accepts they are not co-operating, why aren't they then in material breach?

QUESTION:

Britain has said that time had run out, and we had also said that Saddam is lying and that he is not complying. So in this new agreement from the EU Council today, aren't we showing a sign of weakness to Saddam, given that we are saying they can have more time and the inspectors can continue?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well we haven't said that at all. And no, our position is as it remains. We have agreed that the inspectors should stay in there, but the fact is that the time that you need is the time to make the judgement - is he co-operating or not? In our view he plainly isn't. And I think what was interesting about tonight is I don't think anyone was seriously suggesting that he was co-operating fully .

FOREIGN SECRETARY:

Can I just add, in case you haven't got the text, the relevant paragraph reads: "We reiterate our full support for the ongoing work of the UN inspectors. They must be given the time and resources that the Security Council believes they need". And then it goes on, "However, inspections cannot continue indefinitely in the absence of full Iraqi co-operation". And the next sentence says "Baghdad should have no illusions, it must disarm and co-operate fully and immediately. Iraq has a final opportunity to resolve this crisis peacefully." So it is in the same strong terms as 1441 and the Foreign Ministers' statement of 27 January.

QUESTION:

You just said that no-one at the table disputed the fact that Iraq is not complying as it should. Doesn't that beg the question that if it isn't in compliance then why isn't it a breach, as you just stated yourself?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it is an extremely good point, that is why I think that they are in breach.

QUESTION:

So you don't stand unified this evening on that point?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well I think we do stand unified on the point that they are not co-operating. Now people can put their own interpretations on that, but it seems to me perfectly clear under the terms of Resolution 1441 that the co-operation that is demanded is full, unconditional and immediate, and it isn't full, and it isn't unconditional and it certainly hasn't been immediate. Now it is for people to make up their own positions then on the basis of that, but what I was saying a moment or two ago is that I simply don't understand the argument that in those circumstances, if they are not co-operating then they are in breach. And I think the difficulty that people have is with this whole issue of timing, that the differences between those people who think that the time the inspectors need is the time to search out the weapons, and those people like ourselves who I think take the correct view, and I would say probably the majority view in Europe actually, that the time that is necessary is first of all the time to make a judgement as to whether he is fully co-operating or not, because once he is fully co-operating then of course the time they can take is as long as they want.

QUESTION:

How do you feel about leading Britain ... possible war, bearing in mind that sections of the British public are somewhat against?

PRIME MINISTER:

Of course it is a difficult situation and of course I listen very much to the views that people express if they are against taking action. But I simply say also that it is my job too to say to people look here is a situation where there is a real threat and there is a threat in particular from the link between weapons of mass destruction, these chemical, and biological, and nuclear weapons and terrorist groups, the United Nations has declared a position, if Saddam Hussein is in breach of that position we have to enforce the will of the UN. And we are not at the stage of military action yet, but I believe that people will understand and accept that if the only way of enforcing the UN will is military action then it is better to take that action and enforce the United Nations' will than to set it at nothing. And that is particularly so in circumstances where yes there will be serious consequences of war, but there are also appalling consequences of leaving Saddam in charge of Iraq where so many people die under his rule, particularly if we leave him there with these weapons.

QUESTION:

Kofi Annan was very clear tonight that before military action the UN Security Council has to give a firm decision that Saddam is in material breach, in effect a second resolution. Do you accept that, not just that it would be good to have a unified Security Council, but that it would be particularly desirable to have a unified Security Council, but you cannot start military action without it, as Kofi Annan suggests?

PRIME MINISTER:

Well he didn't actually say that. What he said was that it is important that we have the further discussion in the Security Council, and that is what Resolution 1441 says. But of course I want a unified position, of course I do, but the absolute determination that we have over this issue is because it is important that the will of the UN, as expressed in 1441, is upheld. Now as I say, I believe there is still a lot of discussion and debate, and what was interesting about tonight was that yes there were differences, but there was also a lot of common ground and I have got no doubt at all there were many, many people around that table tonight who were absolutely insistent that Saddam was indeed on his final chance and that we could not carry on indefinitely in the situation where he was in breach of the very firm instruction given to him by the UN.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Preliminary Results: MH17 Investigation Report

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) is convinced of having obtained irrefutable evidence to establish that on 17 July 2014, flight MH-17 was shot down by a BUK missile from the 9M38-series. According to the JIT there is also evidence identifying the launch location that involves an agricultural field near Pervomaiskyi which, at the time, was controlled by pro-Russian fighters. More>>

ALSO:

At The UN: Paris Climate Agreement Moves Closer To Entry Into Force

The Paris Agreement on climate change moved closer toward entering into force in 2016 as 31 more countries joined the agreement today at a special event hosted by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. More>>

ALSO:

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The End Game In Spain (And Other World News)

The coverage of international news seems almost entirely dependent on a random selection of whatever some overseas news agency happens to be carrying overnight... Here are a few interesting international stories that have largely flown beneath the radar this past week. More>>

Amnesty/Human Rights Watch: Appalling Abuse, Neglect Of Refugees On Nauru

Refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru, most of whom have been held there for three years, routinely face neglect by health workers and other service providers who have been hired by the Australian government, as well as frequent unpunished assaults by local Nauruans. More>>

ALSO:

Other Australian Detention

Gordon Campbell: On The Censorship Havoc In South Africa’s State Broadcaster

Demands have included an order to staff that there should be no further negative news about the country’s President Jacob Zuma, and SABC camera operators responsible for choosing camera angles that have allegedly made the President ‘look shorter’ were to be retrained... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On A Bad Week For Malcolm Turnbull, And The Queen

Malcolm Turnbull’s immediate goal – mere survival – is still within his grasp... In every other respect though, this election has been a total disaster for the Liberals. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
World
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news