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Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks): I thank the Prime Minister for his statement and in particular welcome the willingness that the Government and the

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United States have shown to use force to ensure Saddam Hussein's compliance with UN resolutions. Last week, we pledged support for the use of force, should it prove necessary. The Opposition also support the Prime Minister's decision at the weekend to authorise the use of RAF aircraft. We join him in commending the bravery and preparedness of the RAF personnel involved in the mission--no less for the fact that they did not in the event go into action. We welcome Saddam Hussein's apparent assurances that he will allow UN inspectors complete and unconditional access to suspected illegal weapons sites, as well as the Prime Minister's statement that if there is any future breach of the undertakings that Iraq has given, air strikes will be launched without further warning.

At the same time, the Prime Minister will no doubt share our concern, first, that the crisis through which we have just passed represents the second time this year that Saddam Hussein has broken his word and failed to comply with UN resolutions; secondly, that he may still be playing for time and testing the west's resolve; and thirdly that these exercises in brinkmanship are being regularly repeated.

Does the Prime Minister accept the Opposition's continuing strong support for maintaining a tough line against Iraq until the complete destruction of that country's biological and chemical weapons capability has been achieved? Does he further accept that we believe that this determination should embrace sanctions as well, and that the lie should be nailed that the sanctions currently in place are depriving the Iraqi people of food and medical supplies? The Prime Minister made the important point that the continuing suffering of many Iraqis is the direct responsibility of their own regime. Given that Iraq can now sell more than $10 billion of oil annually to pay for food, medicine and other humanitarian goods, should not the blame for the deprivation of the Iraqi people be placed firmly at the door of Saddam Hussein himself, who chooses to spend the money on weapons of war and the luxurious life style of his entourage?

Given that it has repeatedly proved impossible to negotiate in good faith with Saddam Hussein, does the Prime Minister associate the Government with President Clinton's statement:

We all hope that Saddam Hussein is indeed now trapped, but as the Prime Minister said, this matter is far from over. Will he go further and agree that Saddam's continued breaches of faith, and the continuing threat to peace that he presents to the whole of the middle east and thus to the interests of the United Kingdom, mean that although we acknowledge the formidable difficulties involved, a prime objective of western policy should now be the removal of Saddam from power?

The Prime Minister: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his support and his party's support in the past few days. Of course we want to see the Iraqi people governed by a regime other than that of Saddam Hussein. We are looking with the Americans at ways in which we can bolster the opposition and improve the possibility of removing Saddam Hussein altogether. I entirely share the sentiments that President Clinton expressed on that point.

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I also agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the continued suffering of the Iraqi people. We have to be blunt about it. I have no doubt at all that Saddam Hussein will not fulfil the obligations that he has now entered into unless he is made to do so, but what is interesting and different about the present situation is that this time he was able to see that we had given the authorisation to strike. Indeed, until late Saturday morning, that decision had been taken and was literally minutes away from being implemented. Therefore, no one can doubt the credibility of our willingness to use force and, most important of all, Saddam Hussein no longer doubts that.

What is more, precisely because of the build-up that there has been over a period of months, we are in a far stronger position. Reading between the lines of what Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary-General, said, it is clear that he accepts--as does the entire international community--that the next time there will be no formal negotiation at all. If Saddam Hussein withdraws co-operation, action will follow, irrespective of last-minute pleas, letters and the rest. It is that simple. That represents a significant difference from the position in February.

I also emphasise the other point that I made. I was astounded, because I did not accept the argument, by the number of people who genuinely and in good faith thought that Saddam Hussein would welcome military action and that he needed it to bolster his position. According to so-called experts, it was all part of his ploy and he wanted military action as it would strengthen his position. My goodness--the moment he thought and knew that we were serious about military force, a very different song was sung by those who were speaking for Iraq. The fact that that changed in a fundamental way places us in a very good position.

I should make it quite clear to the House again, however, that this will not be over until the inspectors are in there and have completed their work to their satisfaction; or alternatively, because Saddam Hussein fails to co-operate again, until we have by military force diminished and degraded his capability to threaten the neighbourhood and the outside world. One of two things will now happen: either he will co-operate, in which case inspectors will do their job, or he will fail to co-operate and, as we have made quite clear, force will follow.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): I offer my support to the Prime Minister for his statement and for the Government's conduct of these affairs in recent days. In his statement, the Prime Minister refers to a clear diplomatic basis for military action. Is he satisfied that there is clear legal authority for military action? Does he agree that one of the most effective parts of the diplomatic effort against Saddam Hussein was the intervention of a number of Arab states towards the end of last week, in particular Egypt and Syria? Does he agree that it is necessary to seek to maintain the support of Arab opinion; in that regard will he confirm that we will be evenhanded in our application of United Nations Security Council resolutions throughout the entire middle east?

Will the Prime Minister confirm that sanctions are related to compliance and not to the survival in power of Saddam Hussein, and that if there is full compliance all sanctions can be lifted? Finally, will he confirm that,

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notwithstanding Saddam Hussein's behaviour, we will redouble our efforts to bring humanitarian assistance to those whom Saddam Hussein has so cruelly exploited?

The Prime Minister: I thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for the support that his party gave for the action that we took. Yes, we are sure that we have--and will have in future--proper legal authority for the action that we were about to take. The support of the Arab states in their statement last week was significant and has strengthened our position. Although it is frustrating for us, when people see that we are prepared to give Iraq every chance to come into compliance, that is an important part of building up the strongest possible diplomatic support. Obviously we want to maintain that.

The fact that, thanks to the intervention of President Clinton and others, the middle east peace process is back within a framework that gives it some chance of success is an indication to the Arab world that we wish to be even-handed in our approach and that we simply want to maintain the security of the region in all its different forms.

The sanctions are, of course, related to compliance. Saddam knows that, which is why the issue has always been in his hands. He can determine the matter, if he is prepared to come into line with the UN resolutions in their entirety. On the humanitarian side, what is important is that we continue to do whatever we can and, at every single stage, counter the lying Iraqi Government propaganda that babies are dying and people are being starved of food because the west will not allow supplies to come in. I think that I am right in saying that, of the aid for medicines, only 30 per cent. has gone anywhere near the people who should have received that medical assistance. The rest of it, and a large part of the money for the food programme, has gone to that small number of elite people around Saddam Hussein who are keeping the rest of the Iraqi people in repression.

Mr. John Major (Huntingdon): The Prime Minister is right to have supported the United States and the United Nations resolutions over the past few days, and I believe that he was right to commit British forces to take part in any punitive exercise that was necessary. He will also be right if he commits British forces in future without further warning, because that warning has now clearly and unequivocally been given.

Since 1991, Saddam has flagrantly broken every promise he has made. He is developing nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, biological weapons and a delivery system. Unless those weapons are removed, no one can have any confidence that the day will not come when he seeks to use them on neighbouring states, whether on Tel Aviv, Riyadh or elsewhere. We are aware that he has those weapons and it would unforgivable if we did not continue to take the action to ensure that he cannot use them in future.

The Prime Minister mentioned the enormously important contribution of the Arab states and he was right to do so. However, he knows that a different message often goes out from the mosques after prayers, week after week. Will he instruct the Foreign Secretary to do everything he can to repeat the message that our dispute is with the Iraqi regime, not with the Iraqi nation and

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certainly not with Arabs generally across the middle east? It is vital that we continue to retain the active and positive support of Arab nations.

This is Saddam's crisis and nobody else's. It will not be ended until those weapons are moved, one way or another. If the Prime Minister is forced to order further force, he may do so with a clear conscience. The responsibility lies in Baghdad, not in Washington or London.

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