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Straw Addresses Parliament

Aired March 10, 2003 - 10:32   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: On now to London, where British foreign minister Jack Straw is talking to Parliament there. The topic: Iraq.
JACK STRAW, BRITISH SECRETARY OF STATE: Mr. Speaker, now I turn to UNMOVIC. On the other hand, Dr. Blix reported movement in some limited areas. For example, the partial destruction of the prohibited Al Samoud missiles. This is, however, only the tip of the iceberg of Iraq's illegal weapons program.

The full extent of that iceberg was revealed in a document compiled by UNMOVIC entitled "Unresolved Disarmament Issues: Iraq's Proscribed Weapons Program" which was made publicly available late on the 7th of March, last Friday. I've also placed copies of this document in the library of the House. I commend it to all members of the house, Mr. Speaker.

It sets out in 173 pages of painstaking detail the terrible nature of the weapons which Saddam sought with such determination to develop. It is a chilling catalog of evasion and deceit, of failing cooperation while, in reality, pursuing concealment. The sheer scale of Iraq's efforts to develop these weapons and then to hide them can only be grasped by reading the whole document, as I have done. But from the 29 separate sets of unresolved issues. Let me give the house just one illustration: anthrax. Easily inhaled. The death rate in humans on untreated victims may be 90 percent or more. Only tiny amounts are needed to inflict widespread casualties.

Contrary to Iraqi assertions, the inspectors found evidence of anthrax where Iraq had declared that there was none. Again, contrary to Iraqi assertions, UNMOVIC believes there is a strong presumption that some 10,000 liters of anthrax were not destroyed in the early 1990s, and may still exist.

Iraq also possesses the technology and the material to allow it to return swiftly to the pre-1991 production levels for anthrax.

Mr. Speaker, let me now deal with the issues of inspections and of more time. I fully recognize the temptation to believe that the inspections are working and that all is needed is more time. But Saddam Hussein is a master of playing for time. And frankly, as anyone can see from reading the UNMOVIC document, to continue inspections with no firm end date will not achieve the disarmament required by the Security Council. This is, however, the suggestion in the recent memorandum from France, Germany, and Russia.

But as the memorandum itself acknowledges, this cannot be achieved without the fulfillment of a prior condition, namely Iraq's full, active, and immediate cooperation.

Now, once more, last Friday, the Iraqi permanent representative to the United Nations claimed that Iraq had no more weapons of mass destruction. It's the same old refrain we've heard from the regime for the past 12 years.

Yet, whenever the inspectors have caught them out, the regime has first protested, then conceded that narrow point, but then mendaciously claimed that there is no more.

The choice before us is whether we stand firm in pursuing our objective of disarmament, or settle for a policy which, in truth, allows Saddam to rebuild his arsenal under cover of just enough cooperation to keep the inspectors tied down for years to come.

And we should not deceive ourselves, Mr. Speaker. The alternative proposals before the Security Council amount to a return to the failed policy of so-called containment.

But the truth is that containment can never bring disarmament, nor is it the policy of the United Nations as expressed in Resolution 1441, and all the preceding resolutions going back to 1991.

Mr. Speaker, Dr. Blix reported on some further recent activity by Iraq in respect, mainly, of the Al Samoud missiles. Got to ask what has caused this further recent activity, albeit limited as it is.

Well, it is not our policy that has changed, nor is it international law that has changed, nor the degree of diplomatic pressure.

The reality is, the only thing that has changed has been the willingness of the United States and the United Kingdom to deploy their armed forces for the sake of achieving the objective very clearly set out by the United Nations.

And the other reality is that Saddam only responds to pressure. The clear conclusion to draw from this is that we must further increase the pressure on him.

We have to put him to the test, the test very clearly laid down by the United Nations. The government has made clear all along its desire to secure a peaceful outcome to this crisis. It's for this reason that I took the initiative in the Security Council last Friday to circulate a revised version of the U.K./U.S./Spain draft second resolution. This specifies a further period beyond the adoption of the resolution for Iraq to take the final opportunity to disarm.

Negotiations on its important detail have continued over the weekend, and again this morning. We are examining whether a list of defined tests for Iraqi compliance would be useful in helping the Security Council come to a judgment.

What we're proposing is imminently reasonable. We're not expecting Saddam to have disarmed in a week or so, let me make that absolutely clear, said it last Friday. But what we are expecting is that the Iraqi regime should demonstrate, by that time, the full, unconditional, immediate, and active cooperation demanded of it by successive United Nations Security Council resolutions since 1991.

And there is no reason whatever why, within a matter of days, Iraq cannot make clear its desire fully and actively to cooperate. No reason at all.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I profoundly hope that the Iraqi regime will, even at this late stage, seize the chance to disarm peacefully. The only other peaceful alternative would be for Saddam Hussein to heed the calls of a number of other Arab leaders to go into exile, and to hand over to a new leadership prepared to conform with the Security Council's demands.

But if he refuses to cooperate, then the Security Council has to face up to its clear responsibilities under the United Charter. In the event that military action does prove necessary, then the international community will have, amongst many other duties, a duty to build a secure, prosperous future for the Iraqi people.

Last Thursday in New York, I met the United Nations secretary- general, Kofi Annan, to discuss the humanitarian situation and the involvement of the United Nations in any reconstruction of Iraq.

At that meeting, I proposed, on behalf of her majesty's government, that the United Nations should take the lead role in coordinating international efforts to rebuild Iraq and that this should be underpinned by a clear United Nations mandate.

Mr. Speaker, as this crisis enters this phase, there are fears in securing Iraqi's compliance with international law that we may exacerbate tensions elsewhere in the region. Emotions are understandably inflamed by the situation in Israel and the occupied territories, where tragically there seems to be no end to the spiral of killings.

Since September 2000, over 2,300 Palestinians have been killed, and over 700 Israelis. We mourn the loss of life on all sides. But Mr. Speaker, we cannot allow the cycle of violence to destroy hope for a better future. There are some grounds for optimism. International community today shares our vision of a lasting settlement as set out in a series of Security Council resolutions. For a viable Palestinian state based on the 1967 boundaries, and an Israeli state free from terror, secure within its borders, recognized by the Arab world. We are actively encouraging both sides to meet their obligations.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, just as the U.S. is trying to round up some support for votes on that second resolution, so is Great Britain. You've been listening to the foreign minister, Jack Straw there, who has been telling parliament that, Don't be fooled, Saddam Hussein is trying to keep inspectors occupied for years to come. That's his quote.

But the resolution, of course, calls for action, action by the deadline of next Monday, March 17, for full, unfettered access and disarmament.

Let's go to our Richard Roth, who is at the U.N., who has been keeping an eye on the developments from abroad and even from there at the U.N., and so far, Richard, it still doesn't appear as though the U.S. and the U.K. are able to get the number of votes that they want so far for a vote if it takes place this week.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR U.N. CORRESPONDENT: That's right, but also we should focus also on one line or two in what British foreign secretary Jack Straw said when he said -- quote -- "We are examining whether a list of defined tasks for Iraq would be useful."

What you are seeing here is Britain and the United States moving closer to the positions of the uncommitted six members of the council and even the permanent members who oppose a second resolution because they want to give Iraq more time to comply. This is in line with the Canadian compromise proposal.

It's all based on telling Iraq, again, specific areas that Hans Blix and the weapons inspectors have defined, and then giving them either specific timetables, or one big deadline to say this is what you have to turn over, this is what you have to disclose.

Iraq has been asking for more than ten years, tell us what we need to do, the U.S. and the U.N. has always said, We don't have to tell you again and again. You know what you have to do. It is not up to us to be detectives, that's their view. So you are going to see that, probably, in the next day or two, thus delaying the vote here, unless the U.S. does not want to go that route, and insists on a vote as early as tomorrow.

WHITFIELD: And there has been some talk that perhaps there might not even be a vote. How much of a possibility -- a real possibility would that be to completely set aside this proposed second resolution?

ROTH: Well, it would run counter to what President Bush said at his news conference last week where he said let's have a whip count, want to see some hands in the air, and people should show their cards, sounded like an executive who wanted to see how people were voting.

The U.S. wants to challenge France and see if it wants to live up to its veto threat, though it hasn't said the word "veto." The same with Russia. They would like to try to isolate France to be alone.

We are hearing also that while the French want to have -- French president Jacques Chirac wants to come here for a heads of state meeting, German ambassador here this morning in New York saying it is possible Chancellor Schroeder could come here. There is a lot of jockeying back and forth regarding this. Consultations in New York today, 4:00, nothing to be settled today, but you may see the benchmarks, the undefined tasks for Iraq loom in bigger part of the discussions to get more votes so that the deadline of the 17th might slip a little bit.


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