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17 Mar 2003 : Column 706—continued

Mr. Straw: I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his remarks, and shall deal briefly with his points. I picked up the first when he said that we should respect the sincerity with which a wide variety of views are held in the House, which is absolutely right. At the same time, we should accept that nobody—no single individual—has a monopoly of wisdom or morality on this issue. People have both strong views and different points of view. I speak for myself, but I think that I speak for the whole House too, when I say that for each of us the prospect of having to endorse and support military action, whatever the cause, is extremely difficult. Speaking for myself, I shall of course vote for the motion tomorrow, as I endorsed the idea of military action today in Cabinet. I believe that now it is only by the use of "all necessary means", to quote United Nations resolution 678, that it is possible to secure the disarmament of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that had it been possible for the international community, through the Security Council, to speak with the same united voice as was assembled when we passed resolution 1441, we would not now be in this situation. However, I believe that we have striven as hard as we possibly could for that kind of unity, and I greatly regret that it was not possible to achieve it.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me a number of specific questions, including one about discussions with my Turkish counterpart. I personally have not had discussions with my Turkish counterpart because who he was was in a state of flux. The Foreign Minister in Turkey changed just a few days ago from Foreign Minister Yakis to Foreign Minister Gul. I intend to talk to him in the next couple of days, but our excellent ambassador in Ankara, Peter Westmacott, has been in very close touch with the Turkish authorities.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about measures on swift humanitarian aid, which are indeed spelt out in the text of the resolution. We are not just talking about it—in the event of military action we would seek an immediate and strong United Nations mandate for that. The right hon. Gentleman asked if I had discussed the matter with Secretary-General Kofi Annan. I did indeed, at a face-to-face meeting with Kofi Annan in New York on 6 March.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about relations between Israel and Palestine. I obviously understand that in some quarters in the House there is scepticism about the position of the United States in respect of Israel-Palestine, but I would point out to the House that it is under this US Administration, for the first time ever, that the United States and through it, with a consensus, the United Nations, have supported the concept of a two-state solution, with a secure state of Israel and a viable and secure state of Palestine. That has been

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encapsulated in resolution 1397. We have been seeking to ensure the implementation of that resolution. I have spoken twice in the past two weeks to Chairman Arafat of the Palestinian Authority, and since the middle of January we have been actively involved with the Palestinian Authority in assisting with the process of its reform. Largely because of that, it has been possible for Chairman Arafat to nominate the excellent Abu Mazen as the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, and hopefully for the Palestine Legislative Council to endorse the appointment and for it to be accepted, perhaps tomorrow or the next day. I hope that that will be followed by the full publication of the road map, and I hope that the House will be united in its determination. The message that we send, yes, to the Israelis and the Palestinians, and also to the members of the Quartet, including the United States, is that we are determined to see the full implementation of the road map as early as possible.

The right hon. Gentleman raised two further points. One was in respect of support for the armed forces. It goes without saying that our thoughts are with our armed forces. There cannot be a single Member of the House who does not have constituents with relatives in the armed forces in the Gulf or in the theatre. I have been talking to the parents of my constituents who are out there. I know the anxiety that this period will inevitably cause them. Of course, our hearts and prayers go out to them.

The right hon. Gentleman's very important last point was about the Muslim communities around the world. When I discussed the matter with some of my Muslim friends in my Blackburn constituency on Friday, a leading Muslim told me that he had asked some of his colleagues how many Muslims had been murdered by Saddam Hussein. The answer came back: well over a million. Then he had asked how many countries Saddam Hussein had invaded. The answer is two sovereign nations, both of them Muslim. The simple truth is that Saddam Hussein has murdered and terrorised more Muslims than any other tyrant in recent history. The world, and the Muslim world particularly, will be a great deal better when he is disarmed.

Mr. Michael Moore (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale): I am grateful to the Foreign Secretary for his statement and for the advance copy that I received. The whole House will be united in regret that we have reached the point where military action against Iraq is imminent. Our thoughts this evening are with our armed forces and their families.

A few hours ago, the Secretary-General of the United Nations said that if military action takes place without the backing of the Security Council, its legitimacy will be questioned and the authority for any action will be diminished. In the light of those comments, does the Foreign Secretary accept that the disarmament of Saddam Hussein's evil regime should continue under United Nations auspices? Does he also accept that at this moment, when the weapons inspectors have been

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preparing timetables to complete their work, the right decision would be to allow them to continue their endeavours and not to go to war at this time?

Mr. Straw: Of course it would have been better if it had been possible to achieve a consensus in the United Nations for a second resolution, but there is no question about the legality of the action that we propose to take. [Interruption.] No. That goes back to resolutions 678 and 687. I put the resolutions before the House, so they are plain for everybody to see. I am extremely familiar with the negotiating history of resolution 1441. As I have told the House on many occasions, France and Russia informally proposed that there should be a lock in resolution 1441 requiring that before any military action or any enforcement of the system of disarmament proposed—by force—there had to be a second resolution. France and Russia dropped that proposition. They never even put it forward as a formal amendment. Instead, what was finally agreed in the resolution was a process by which it was declared in operational paragraph 1 that Iraq had been and remains in material breach; in operational paragraph 2, a final opportunity to Iraq to disarm; in operational paragraph 4, a statement of what constitutes a further material breach—namely, a false declaration and other failure to comply; then a process, if Iraq was in further material breach, which it has been for weeks, setting out further discussions in the Security Council, which have already taken place; and in operational paragraph 13, which states in words that everybody understands that if Iraq failed to comply, serious consequences would follow. It is in pursuit of the authority of the United Nations that we are moving the motion tomorrow in order to secure the disarmament that the United Nations has been seeking for the past 12 years.

So far as a further timetable for the inspectors is concerned, let me say that this issue arises under Security Council resolution 1284. One or two members of the Security Council are now clutching resolution 1284 as if it were their own. Resolution 1284 was finally agreed by the Security Council after very difficult negotiations in 1999. France sought to water down the inspection regime time and again. It was agreed in order to get any resolution through, for example, that presidential palaces would be exempted from the inspection. France then refused to back that resolution, and because it was not supported by any credible threat of force, Iraq refused to comply with it. What that tells us is that unless we have a tough resolution and back it with a credible threat of force and, as we are now getting to the point, the use of force, we will never ever get this tyrannical regime to comply with its United Nations obligations.

Mr. Clive Soley (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush): Is it not a fact that, if the United Nations had acted in 1991 when the ceasefire was first breached and the following resolutions of that year were also breached, we would not be in our current position? Is not the awful lesson of the 12 years that have intervened, in which there have been so many deaths and genocidal activities in Iraq, that we cannot go on passing resolutions unless we are resolved to act?

Mr. Straw: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I say to the House that we need to think about where we

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would be if we failed now to act. We know that this man has weapons of mass destruction. That sounds like a slightly abstract phrase, but what we are talking about is chemical weapons, biological weapons, viruses, bacilli and anthrax—10,000 litres of anthrax—that he has. We know that he has it, Dr. Blix points that out and he has failed to account for that. If we allow these weapons to remain in the possession of Saddam Hussein and do nothing about it, we cannot complain when the regime becomes further empowered to act in a tyrannical way with his neighbours and also if such weaponry finds its way into the hands of other rogue states or terrorist groups and then inflicts destruction very much nearer home.

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