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7 Nov 2002 : Column 442—continued

Mr. Straw: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his comments. All of us who have been involved in the process are aware of the anxieties of the public, which I share—as do the Prime Minister and the United States—about the prospect of military action being used. Military action should never be used except as a last resort when all other possibilities have been exhausted. It should not be used because innocent people get killed in military action, because unintended

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consequences may occur and because we put the lives of our troops and the future of their families on the line. Those are serious responsibilities that we have to shoulder and ensure that they are reflected in our work. They have been so reflected here and, I believe strongly, in the United States. All my reading suggests that public opinion in the United States, and in the Administration, is no different in almost all particulars from that here or elsewhere.

As for the resolution of the Palestine-Israel question, I agree that that is viewed slightly differently across the Atlantic. As I have said, we must work closely with our American friends, as well as with those in the Russian Federation, the EU and the P5 group to secure justice for Israelis and Palestinians.

Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Highgate): If Iraq fails to comply and military action—the most serious of consequences—ensues, would that require a mandate from the UN? Would this country support a coalition of nations undertaking that military action if such a mandate were not forthcoming? Under what legal verification would that be possible?

Mr. Straw: As I have said on a number of occasions in answer to questions, we would prefer to stay with the UN Security Council route. However, we must reserve the right, within our obligations under international law, to take military action if we deem that necessary, outwith a specific Security Council resolution being passed in the future.

I repeat that the UN charter, Security Council resolutions and customary international law are the basis of international law. They have to come together. Judgments about whether military action is necessary and justified in international law must be made on that totality.

Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell): If Iraq fails to comply with the resolution and we then deem it necessary to take military action with our American allies, does the Foreign Secretary share my concern that public opinion in this country does not support that? That is especially true of people with previous military experience, despite the publication of the dossier by the Prime Minister last month. In those circumstances, I urge the Foreign Secretary to reveal further information that would satisfy the British people about the very real threat that Iraq poses, and about its close links with international terrorism. To date, he has failed to do that.

Mr. Straw: I do not accept the burden of the right. hon. Gentleman's question. The fairest thing to be said is that, although there is a wide spectrum of public opinion in this country, in Europe and in the US, there is no doubt that there is a much higher level of support for firm action within the UN route than outwith it. That is one of the many reasons why we have been determined, as far as humanly possible, to follow the UN route and to stay with it.

David Winnick (Walsall, North): The UN resolution is tough, and I hope that it will be adopted by the Security Council, but does my right hon. Friend accept

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the criticism that it should have been adopted after the liberation of Kuwait in 1991? If that had happened, the matter would have been resolved one way or the other.

We all hope that military action can be avoided. However, if it cannot be avoided, and action is taken, will it be made absolutely clear that there will be no foreign occupation of Iraq? There have been stories in the press and elsewhere to the effect that the US would remain in occupation for some years. That would be unacceptable to the international community, and especially to the Arab world. Will my right hon. Friend clear that matter up now?

Mr. Straw: I do not want to get drawn too far into hypothetical situations. We want the matter to be resolved peacefully. If the resolution is agreed by the UN, it will provide a means to resolve it peacefully, without any need to speculate about foreign occupation. If military action is taken, a range of possibilities will open up, but we would also seek to ensure that the government of Iraq was in better and more representative hands than at present. The history of countries all over the world, and not just in the Arab world, shows that Governments are better when they are run by the peoples of their countries, and not by dictators or foreign occupiers.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): Does the Foreign Secretary agree that, whereas the plant needed to make nuclear weapons can be detected fairly easily by an efficient inspection regime, the plant required to make chemical and biological weapons is much more difficult to detect? Saddam Hussein has had since 1998 to build up stocks of chemical and biological weapons and even to dismantle the plant that produced them. Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that there is a danger that it will be very difficult indeed for an inspection regime to discover those stocks, which could be hidden anywhere in the vast area that is Iraq? Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that, even under the most rigorous inspection regime, we can have confidence that Saddam Hussein will not be able to maintain such stocks and, if he wishes, supply to them terrorist groups abroad?

Mr. Straw: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the greater ease with which one can hide chemical and biological weapons and facilities for developing nuclear weapons. That is true and it has had to be factored in to the powers being given to the weapons inspectors. No one can guarantee what is going to happen now. We cannot predict the future. The powers that the resolution will give to the weapons inspectors are the toughest possible powers to secure the best outcome—we hope—but the resolution also requires compliance and co-operation by the Saddam Hussein regime. It needs to know that if it fails to comply with any of the particulars, it will be in material breach and serious consequences will follow.

Lynne Jones (Birmingham, Selly Oak): I hope and pray that my right hon. Friend is right when he says that the draft resolution represents a genuine wish by the United States authorities to bring about effective weapons inspection by peaceful means. Will he give the House further details of the enhanced powers that the

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resolution gives to UNMOVIC and the International Atomic Energy Agency? Which provisions of resolution 1154 does the resolution override? Has the chief of the weapons inspectors requested that they should be accompanied by security guards? How many such guards would he expect to be dispatched and which countries are they likely to come from?

Mr. Straw: The third tiret of operational paragraph 7 overrides the provisions of resolution 1154 in respect of presidential sites. The fifth tiret states:

They will come from a number of countries.

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell): The Secretary of State will be aware that discussions on the resolution are taking place against the background of increasing reports of international terrorist threats. Is he aware of any indicators that suggest that there are links between Saddam Hussein's regime and those threats? I do not expect him to be able to give details of the intelligence that he might have, but are there any indications of a linkage?

Mr. Straw: There is clear evidence of linkage between the Iraqi regime and terrorist organisations of a very pernicious kind operating in Israel and the occupied territories. I have seen no evidence to link the Iraqi regime to al-Qaeda in respect of what happened before 11 September, but as I told the House on Tuesday, if such evidence is produced I would not be surprised.

Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): I recognise the efforts that my right hon. Friend has made to bring about an acceptable wording for the resolution. We all hope that it will avoid war. What progress has he made on another matter that I have raised many times in the Chamber—using international law and calling on the United Nations to set up a war crimes tribunal on Iraq, which would be the best way to bring about a regime change without military action? What progress is he making in indicting leading members of the regime, using international law, which can be used in this country, for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide?

Mr. Straw: I thank my hon. Friend for her generous remarks and place on record my admiration for her work for the Kurdish people and the other oppressed peoples of Iraq. She has undertaken that work at times when it has not been popular as well as when it has become more noteworthy.

We have been making as much effort as we can in respect of indicting the war criminals in Iraq. I recognise my hon. Friend's feeling that that is not sufficient and I will continue to pursue indictment in the United Kingdom. As she knows, I speak to my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General about this from time to time. I shall be seeing him again this afternoon for a further discussion. We certainly do not rule out an international tribunal trying Saddam Hussein and others in his Government for war crimes.

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