PM: Authority of the UN 'is on the line'
PM: Authority of the United Nations
'is on the line'
Prime Minister Tony Blair has warned that failing to act against the Iraqi regime with a clear signal of common intent, would result not in peace but 'simply be conflict postponed'. He made the comments following the 4th UK-Spain Summit with Spanish Premier Jose Maria Aznar.
The Prime Minister said that sometimes the threat of weapons of mass destruction is difficult to discern 'in an immediate sense, but it is real'. He added:
"I believe genuinely, passionately, that international terrorism and unstable repressive states developing chemical, biological, nuclear weapons are real threats to our security."
Mr Blair said that Saddam Hussein knows perfectly well what he has to do in respect of disarmament. He said:
"He has to say what has happened to the 8,500 litres of anthrax, the 360 tonnes of chemical warfare agent, the 3,000 tonnes of precursor chemicals, the 30,000 special munitions. All of which the inspectors found were unaccounted for in Iraq when they were forced to leave a few years ago.
"Saddam Hussein is the tyrant who has fired missiles at five different countries, started two wars, has had 12 years in which to fulfil UN resolutions and has not fulfilled a single one, who has used chemical weapons against his own people and is responsible for thousands of them dying needlessly every single year.
"If we fail to confront this dictator with these weapons at this moment when we have demanded that he disarm, then it is going to be much more difficult to negotiate our way through the other threats that we face, and that is another reason why I think it is important that we stand firm at this time and do what we said that we will do."
Read a transcript of the press conference below:
Good Morning to everyone. Thank you very much for coming. Once again,I would like to welcome the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr Tony Blair, to Madrid, to Spain on this occasion because of the yearly meeting that we normally hold and this time it was time to be held in Madrid, yesterday and today.
As you know, our talks have been very fruitful both from the standpoint of our bilateral relations. From the boost we want to give to European policy together with our other European partners and friends, as well as an assessment of the international situation and the crisis generated by Iraq in its failure to comply with resolutions.
As you all know, we have made four joint declarations already, one on employment. As you know the Lisbon process arises after the common efforts of the UK and Spain and also another on economic reform and the major objectives of both our economies and other European economies. In the economic reform, rather the contrary, that under these circumstances to give a boost to all the economic reform processes, the best way to create jobs and creating jobs is the best social policy of the service of our countries and citizens.
The second issue we have covered and reached an agreement on is illegal immigration. This is undoubtedly a very important matter and none of us would be able to take this on alone, it is something we have to do through joint effort and try to solve the matter. We know that illegal immigration is one of our most important challenges and we know that only from complying with international laws and other things, and only by the rationalisation of migration flows can we tackle the problems that this implies in terms of integration, opportunities for immigrants, security and everything relative to immigration.
The third issue we have covered is that pertaining and sharing views on Latin America. We think that Latin American politics are extremely important at present and we are very pleased to have confirmed that in very few years time a free trade treaty and a political agreement that makes Mexico a privileged partner of the EU. We are also most happy about our negotiations with Chile for a free trade agreement, a first magnitude agreement, it is pending ratification by the parliaments of our member states and we trust to be able to ratify this in the coming months. So Chile and Mexico are already first ranking partners of the EU and this forms a very significant part of our relations with the Latin American world. Our conversations and the interests of the UK government on the UK matter is important and growing. And the Spanish presence over there in our projection in Latin America is not something that I need to underscore to you.
The fourth chapter we have talked about is a statement on institutional reform in the EU. We have a very common view - the UK and Spain - on institutional reforms within the framework of the convention and the future Intergovernmental Conference in a Europe that we are enlarging to many, many more countries. To 25, in which institutional balances have to be reasonably safeguarded, institutions have to work effectively and this common vision, of Spain and the UK, is very interesting. And we of course are ready to get down to work with our friends and partners of the EU, especially with those who have taken on initiatives from an institutional standpoint to reach common visions, joint visions on what Europe's institutional reform should be.
And we of course have spoken about the international scenario and the matter that concerns us, about the threat to the world from Iraq's non-compliance with the UNSC's resolutions. I would like to confirm that our position is very close, we are very much in agreement. That has led us to take joint actions and to submit together with the United States a new draft resolution for the Security Council. But once again I would like to insist on the fact that we want the situation to continue to be managed within the context of the United Nations. We want a new resolution from the Security Council of the United Nations, we want to guarantee the role of the Security Council for the future, we think this is extremely important. We are seeking the greatest possible unity and majority in the UN Security Council and we also want and seek that by exerting maximum pressure on the Iraqi regime, that is how we can achieve our desires and the desires of so many millions of people all over the world for peace.
We honestly believe that what has been happening in these recent hours and days forms part, it is just part of what in my opinion is a very cruel game of Saddam Hussein and of his regime of playing with millions and millions of people's desires for peace. We would like to focus on respecting international law within the United Nations and our desire is for the Iraqi regime to disarm, which is precisely the mandate given to it 12 years ago by the United Nations. And I truly hope that for peace and security around the world I hope that we can be effective.
As for weapons of mass destruction, I think that eliminating terrorist threats is one of the best services that we can pay to peace and security in the world.
That is all I want to say. To begin with Prime Minister Blair has the floor and I would like to thank him once again for being here with us this morning.
First of all can I express my very great thanks to President Aznar for hosting us here at this annual summit between Britain and Spain. And if I may right at the outset pay tribute to the courage and leadership of
President Aznar in these last few difficult months. It has been a hard thing to do, for all the reasons we know, but it has given enormous comfort, I think, to people who do understand the huge threat that our world faces today, that there are people like President Aznar prepared to give that leadership at this time.
And we are in agreement that we want to see the issue of the disarmament of Iraq resolved through the United Nations. Of course we do. But the reason why we believe that this issue does indeed have to be resolved is because we understand the threat of weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological, potentially nuclear weapons, and the link with international terrorism, can pose to the security of our people. And sometimes that threat is difficult to discern in an immediate sense, but it is real.
The terrorists we know will stop at nothing, and if we allow the proliferation and development by unstable states of these types of weapons, then we will put at risk not just our security but our prosperity for the future. And if we fail to act at this time and send a clear signal of our common intent, if we fail to act, the result will not be peace, it will simply be conflict postponed.
We also however discussed a range of other international issues and Britain and Spain again share a very common position on the absolute priority of restarting the peace process in the Middle East. We now have a very clear common agreement across the world that the fairest solution of two states and Israel confident of its security and a viable Palestinian state living side by side. It is our desire that we re-begin that peace process and reach that objective as soon as we possibly can. Both of us will play our full part in achieving that.
Now as the President explained to you, the purpose of our summit is obviously to discuss the bilateral issues between us, and I am delighted with the four papers that we have put out. On illegal immigration, which is a problem that affects us all, on economic reform where we are in complete agreement that we need to revitalise the process that began at Lisbon and make sure that alongside the single currency in Europe there is real and fundamental structural reform that guarantees the future prosperity of our people.
In respect of the future of Europe we have many common ideas, indeed not just Britain and Spain but many others within the European Union, where we want to strengthen every level of European institutions in order that when Europe enlarges, we have a Europe that is strong and effective.
And I am particularly pleased with the relationship that we have developed over the links between Latin America and Europe because I think this is a very, very important part of our future for very obvious reasons. Spain has a critical role to play in this, but I think there is an increasing recognition right across Europe that a strong relationship between Europe and Latin America is in the interests of us both for the long term.
And finally we laid stress again on the importance of the transatlantic relationship with the United States of America.
So once more thank you for hosting us here. It has been a very, very worthwhile discussion. And I am pleased to say that on all the major issues of the day there is strong agreement between our two countries.
Prime Minister, as I am sure you are aware, Iraq has just announced that they are going to start destroying the Al-Samud missiles tomorrow. Now assuming that they do, you guys will say that is not enough, you have got to give more. Can you now tell us in concrete and specific terms what Iraq has to do, what you need to see and hear for you to be convinced that they are changing direction?
The moment I heard earlier in the week that Saddam Hussein was saying he would not destroy the missiles, was the moment that I knew later in the week that he would announce just before Dr Blix reported that he would indeed destroy these missiles. But this is not a time for games. He knows perfectly well what he has to do. He has to say what has happened to the 8,500 litres of anthrax, the 360 tonnes of chemical warfare agent, the 3,000 tonnes of precursor chemicals, the 30,000 special munitions. All of which the inspectors found were unaccounted for in Iraq when they were forced to leave a few years ago.
He has to allow interviews with the people engaged in those programmes, not with minders, not tape recorded with the tape recordings given to the Iraqi authorities, but properly and freely, if necessary outside of the country. There is no doubt in his mind what he has to do. The question is does he have the will to do it.
And if we look back over the past 12 years, what do we see? We see two things very clearly. The first is that he never makes any concession at all other than with the threat of force hanging over him. And does anyone seriously believe that the inspectors would be within 1,000 miles of Baghdad but for the presence of troops on Saddam's doorstep? And secondly, that although he gives out these concessions as the threat of action comes nearer, he never actually disarms voluntarily as the UN have demanded. And so this is a moment in particular where we have to remain strong and remain true to the demand that the United Nations has made that he disarms himself of these weapons, co-operates with the inspectors fully and completely and starts by telling us what has happened to the unaccounted for material that everyone knows was there when the inspectors left, chemical, biological, poison.
Could I ask President Aznar to elaborate on his comment that he would like to hear more from Colin Powell and less from Donald Rumsfeld.
And also both of you have said you want to achieve an end to the Iraqi crisis through the UN, but that rather begs the question, what happens if the United States decides to go it alone, what would your position be then?
Well look, that comment is very easy to explain. In general lines I am in favour of not speaking much, including ourselves, Prime Ministers. So I am not therefore in favour of Ministers speaking too much, I am not very much in favour of Defence Ministers speaking much, not the Secretary of Defence of the United States specifically, but the Spanish Minister of Defence, the British, that is more for the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, government spokesmen, that is it, that is all, that is what it means.
What is important here is that the Iraqi crisis is in the hands of the Security Council and it would be the United States' decision and our decision as well, and that is precisely what we want to keep, we want to keep it within the UN Security Council.
And yesterday we mentioned that we always have to keep up our humour in such difficult times, that we have been fighting, to put it this way, for a long time, for many months in order for things to be in the Security Council, that we should be the ones to be receiving lessons on unilateralism, and in addition we are tabling resolutions for the Security Council, we are seeking unity within the Security Council and I think that is what is relevant and important and that is the meaning of the statement. And I trust that we will manage to get broad unity, because as Prime Minister Blair has just said, just to picture Saddam's regime taking a single step without extreme pressure from the world is being misguided in my opinion, that has been more than proven. 48 hours ago we could see and hear Saddam Hussein saying what missiles are you talking about, no I have no missiles or anything of the kind, I have nothing. Now he is doing this, and that is the cruel game I was referring to, he is playing with the goodwill for peace of so many million people. And he is the threat and we are the ones who with our decision can make the objectives of international law be complied with, and that is what we are striving for.
I would like to ask both of you whether or not the steps or the demarche of these days you have managed to win over some more support, are we still only the four countries that are supporting that resolution. Have you managed to get more promises or gotten any country closer to your position to support the resolution? And although I know this is not the most significant issue these days, I would like to know whether you have managed to agree on so many European issues and on the future of a country of 11 million people and you can't reach an agreement on a place such as Gibraltar with only 30,000 inhabitants.
First of all on the situation with the UN Security Council, we carry on working for full support and we do so on this simple basis. It is always a good idea to go back and read Resolution 1441 that the UN passed. It said Saddam had a final opportunity to comply, it said that he had to comply fully, unconditionally and immediately. There is nobody, nobody at all on the Security Council who is saying he is complying fully and unconditionally. So either we meant what we said last November, or we didn't. Now I believe that we meant what we said and that is why I remain confident that we will get support from the fellow members of the Security Council.
And as for the issue of Gibraltar, yes of course we discussed it and we carry on talking about it between our two countries because it is an important issue for Britain and for Spain and for people in Gibraltar, and we very much want to reach an agreement and a solution on it because that is in the interests of everyone, not least the interest of a very strong bilateral relationship which we have now with Spain.
For my part, I would like to say that we are making every possible effort to achieve consensus and unity within the context of the Security Council. I truly hope that for the good and peace of the world and for international law in relations we are putting in our best effort to achieve that agreement within the Security Council so that things can be taken on through the framework of the UN. And the second question you have is something we are working on and we will continue to work on.
Prime Minister, almost a third of Parliament warned against your policy on Iraq, almost half of your own backbenchers did the same, and people see that you have ignored them. You have promised votes in the future, will you ignore them, however big the protests are again? And can I follow Andy's question on the news on Al-Sumood and say isn't there a danger in terms of perception at least that you look like you can't take yes for an answer, that if Saddam moves you dismiss it even before hedoes?
On the latter point, I don't think I have got anything to add to what I said earlier, and it is the reality that is important. On the first point, it would be odd if we didn't take account of the fact that we won the vote, and in fact a majority of Labour Members of Parliament back the government. But let me make it quite clear to you, I don't ignore the voices of people who are opposed to the course that we are taking. I understand why they take that view and I respect that view. But in the end I have got to say as Prime Minister to the country on an issue such as this what I believe and why I believe it, and I believe genuinely, passionately, that international terrorism and unstable repressive states developing chemical, biological, nuclear weapons are real threats to our security.
And I am not trying to suggest that Saddam is about to launch a strike on Britain, or Spain, or even the United States of America. What I do say to people is, if we do not take a stand now and enforce the will of the UN the possibility of these terrorist groups - that will stop at nothing to cause damage and destruction, getting hold of those chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, that threat will grow, and at some point we will have to deal with it.
If we do not take a stand now, we will deal with it after some terrible and devastating tragedy, the consequences of which at the present time we simply cannot contemplate or guess. And that is why I am taking the stand that I am taking. Look, this is a difficult situation. President Aznar and myself are not taking the position we are taking for short-term popularity, that is clear, isn't it? So we are doing it because we believe in it, and at some point you have a duty if you are to offer any leadership to your country in saying why it is we believe there is a real threat from terrorism and these appalling terrible weapons to the security and prosperity of our countries and to the wider world. And the whole basis upon which we have acted is to say there is this threat but we want to deal with it as an international community through the United Nations, and that is the other part of the argument.
The authority of the United Nations is on the line because they said he has to disarm and that this is his final chance. And we know, whatever concessions he makes, he is not really at the present time telling us what has happened to the chemical and biological weapons that he had. And now suddenly he is unable to provide any documentation for, or any description of what has happened to them.
That is why this is important because if the United Nations does not deal with this as a unified international community, then our ability to cope in a unified way with future crises about the same types of issues will be hugely diminished. That is why we are doing what we are doing.
I want to express my appreciation. I highly value Prime Minister Blair's efforts, but I would also like to add a thought to what he has just said. We respect everyone's feelings, of course, but we are working for the world's peace and security, and in the same way as we understand that in our countries, or at least I understand that peace and security are guaranteed if law is respected from an international standpoint, I understand that respect for international law is basic. Some people may think that not respecting it is good for international peace and security, but I believe that that is precisely the worst thing that could happen for world peace and security. And that is why we are assuming our responsibilities and I am certain that for the Prime Minister and for myself it would be much more comfortable to just lie back and maybe go off this weekend on holiday, or look the other way and not assume responsibilities. We know we are taking on responsibility but we are honestly working towards peace and security in the world and we are not going to be subject to threats of weapons of mass destruction and blackmail by terrorists.
The list of chemical and biological weapons is a threat to international peace and security and we, under our responsibility, are not going to be looking the other way because we don't want anyone to tell us tomorrow that we weren't able to face up to the world's problems.
One question for both Prime Ministers. Are you in favour of the draft resolution tabled Monday to be submitted to the Security Council, even if it does not count on the necessary supports?
We expect it to count on the necessary support for it to go forward, that is all I can think of by way of an answer, that is what we are working for.
You have both talked about seeking the greatest consensus possible, but how precisely do you intend to reach that consensus, and should you fail, will you support Bush on a single mission against Iraq?
As I said just a moment or two ago, there is no point in speculating on that because we are working flat out to get the broadest possible basis of consent. I believe that we will because what we are asking for is true to the United Nations resolution we passed last November.
My question is for both Prime Ministers and it has two parts to it. In my first question I would like to know how much time you are giving yourselves to win that support for your resolution. I have heard both of you mention that you are working for peace and security and against the terrorist threat in those states that have weapons of mass destruction supposedly. In that sense, I would like to know whether after Iraq this same process will continue against other countries such as North Korea, Pakistan or Iran?
Again there is little point I think in speculating as to timing. Obviously we are working very hard to achieve support for the UN resolution that we have tabled.
In respect of other countries, there are going to be different ways in which we can deal with the threat of weapons of mass destruction. But one thing I think our history teaches us very clearly, which is that if we are firm when we first confront this threat, it is then easier to deal with subsequent threats, because everybody knows then that the international community is serious. And the reason why this has come to a head over Iraq is every simple.
Saddam Hussein is the tyrant who has fired missiles at five different countries, started two wars, has had 12 years in which to fulfil UN resolutions and has not fulfilled a single one, who has used chemical weapons against his own people and is responsible for thousands of them dying needlessly every single year.
If we fail to confront this dictator with these weapons at this moment when we have demanded that he disarm, then it is going to be much more difficult to negotiate our way through the other threats that we face, and that is another reason why I think it is important that we stand firm at this time and do what we said that we will do.
I very much agree. I think the worst thing we could do is sign a blank cheque to all these dictators around the world, to people who want to develop weapons of mass destruction. I have the conviction that history is full of hard lessons for everyone's peace when international law is not abided, and I think that the worst message we could convey to the world would be a message of disunity and so free for all on weapons of mass destruction, free for all on terrorism, that would be the worst possible message. So we are therefore going to continue with our efforts to achieve the objectives of the United Nations so that international law is respected, and we are also going to confront the outstanding problems in the area. We have already mentioned the Middle East conflict which we wish to solve and we would like to see peaceful co-existence of two states with security and freedom in the future. This is also very important in terms of the work we have to do.