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The Prime Minister: Yes. We have been active in building up as much support as possible. As we have said, the supportive statements made by European Union members and by the Arab states demonstrate the degree of backing for our position. The words of the United Nations Secretary-General yesterday are obviously very important also.

As for our having an independent voice, I believe that what we did was right--if I did not believe it was right, I would not have done it. While I believe that it is important that this country is--and always will be--the master of its own foreign and defence policies, I do not make any apologies for our relationship with the United States of America. As I have often said: thank goodness the United States is there and prepared to act in these situations, even if others are not. If we had not been prepared to act in this situation--I could mention many others who were not--the possibility of securing peace and stability in the world would have been much diminished.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): My right hon. Friend has revealed an horrendous list of weapons to the House today. Will he make it clear that, if a man who is unstable and who rules a regime as totally unacceptable as that in Iraq remains in control of savage weapons of war, no one will be safe until we can guarantee that they have been completely withdrawn and destroyed? Does he understand that it is essential that the inspectors work as rapidly as possible, and will he ensure that the period that Iraq is allowed is foreshortened? If those weapons are allowed to remain, no one will be safe.

The Prime Minister: I entirely agree with the sentiments that my hon. Friend just expressed. It is important that the inspectors be able to gain access, not just to the declared sites, but to the undeclared sites--and to all the various documentation, because that too is important in uncovering the weapons programme. Of course, that is all part of the agreement that Saddam Hussein entered into at the end of the Gulf war. The agreement, negotiated by the then Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Huntingdon, and by President Bush, was that Saddam Hussein would destroy all weapons of mass destruction; and the inspectors were put in there in order, as it were, to certify that he had carried

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out that programme. The truth is that they have had to carry out the programme and he has spent six or seven years trying to dodge it.

I totally understand the frustration of people who say, "This has all taken an awful lot of time." Yes, it has, but at each stage we are eliminating the weapons, ensuring that the inspectors can go back in and do their work, and building the basis for the use of force again if Saddam Hussein pulls back from the undertakings that he has given.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood): May I express my appreciation to Prime Minister for coming to the House in person to make this important statement? He has put his credibility on the line, in as much as he has explained why he has taken our armed forces to the brink of war and not beyond, and we hope that the policy will be successful. He also mentioned the issue of conventional armaments. Does he envisage any extension of sanctions to prevent Saddam Hussein building up his conventional weaponry, which is already fearsome enough?

The Prime Minister spoke of our allies--the United States and President Clinton--in glowing terms, but there were some notable absentees in this matter. What about our European friends? At Vienna, he was eulogising the common foreign and security policy; what has become of it over this crisis?

The Prime Minister: I thought for a moment that we were going to get through a question by the hon. Gentleman without a knock at Europe. In fact, the European Union--as it said in a statement last week and, I understand, as it is saying today--will be very helpful to, and supportive of, what we do.

The sanctions regime is tied to a series of things that must be done by Saddam Hussein. If we carry out all the things that are in the various UN resolutions, we shall have secured the objectives that we have set ourselves in respect of armaments, and I believe that we shall do so. Those resolutions amply justify the action that we are taking.

Of course our credibility is on the line here; it always is in these situations, but I think that we are right to say that we shall not hesitate to act if Saddam Hussein goes back on the undertakings that he has given.

Mr. George Galloway (Glasgow, Kelvin): I am for rooting out these hideous weapons wherever they are, whether they are the ocean of chemical weapons that the United States of America dropped on the people of Vietnam, or the biological weapons in the Israeli arsenal, some of which we read about at the weekend, which strike a new low even in that dreadful alchemy.

In 1956, a less distinguished predecessor of my right hon. Friend stood at that Dispatch Box and asked who would chain

It was a precursor to a devastating Anglo-Israeli attack on Egypt, with cataclysmic results; this time we were minutes away from an equally cataclysmic mistake. Does the Prime Minister really think that the kings and sheikhs at Doha were speaking for the Arab people--speaking for the Muslims of the world? I hope that he does not; I hope that he knows better than that.

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Will the Prime Minister answer one question? Why is it that Israel, which illegally occupies three Arab countries, is allowed to have nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, but no Arab Muslim country is allowed to have the same thing?

The Prime Minister: In trying to compare Israel to Iraq, my hon. Friend simply underlines the misguided nature of his own arguments. Quite apart from the fact that Israel is a democracy, we cannot see Saddam Hussein in the same light at all. At the beginning of his remarks, my hon. Friend said that he was in favour of making sure that the weapons of mass destruction were destroyed. That cannot be done unless there is the threat of force to back up the diplomatic efforts.

As for speaking for the Arab people, I believe that those to whom my hon. Friend referred were speaking for the Arab people, but I agree that there is a large measure of disagreement in the Arab world--all the more reason for us to be out there saying with one voice, "This is not a quarrel with the Arab people. It is not a quarrel with the Iraqi people. It is a quarrel with Saddam Hussein." After all, the biggest single immediate threat that Saddam Hussein poses is to the Arab nations of the world.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): I support the Government and the Prime Minister's action in coming to the House to make a statement. The Prime Minister will need no reminding of the complications and difficulties that can arise from the use of limited force in response to unlimited tyranny. Can he assure us that he was operating with the authority of all his colleagues, that the matter was given careful consideration and that the defence and overseas policy committee of the Cabinet had met prior to the decisions that he took on Saturday?

The Prime Minister: I assure the hon. Gentleman that we were acting with the full authority of the Government, as he would expect. The action that we worked out was proportionate and right. It would have achieved the objectives that we had set for any military action--first, by degrading the capability of making weapons of mass destruction, and secondly, by diminishing the threat that Saddam Hussein posed to his immediate neighbours. Both those objectives would have been satisfied by the military action, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that that was the united position of the entire Government.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North): Is my right hon. Friend aware that those of us who, 42 years ago, vigorously demonstrated against the British, French and Israeli aggression, believe that we are perfectly justified in campaigning against the Iraqi dictator at every opportunity? Is it not the case that since 1990, the division in the House has been between those who want to face up to the criminal nature of the regime and those who want to appease Saddam Hussein? Those who now criticise my right hon. Friend and the American Administration for what they have done are the very people who in 1990 and 1991 justified the invasion of Kuwait. Had we listened to such people, no action would have been taken to liberate Kuwait. We were right then, and we are certainly right now.

The Prime Minister: I entirely agree.

Mr. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): The Prime Minister is right when he says that the patterns of

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behaviour demonstrated by Saddam Hussein amount to continued deceit. The Prime Minister is also right to consider the use of force and to maintain that threat, but what will happen if Saddam Hussein again agrees with Kofi Annan, accepts the United Nations proposals and six months later changes his mind? How long will we keep troops on station? How long is the United States prepared to keep two aircraft carrier groups in the region? Once they withdraw, is it not possible, as the Prime Minister admitted, that Saddam Hussein might change his mind again? What will happen if, in the time that it takes to bring our troops back, Saddam Hussein again concedes to the UN demands?

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