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Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 04:42 GMT 05:42 UK
Blair unveils Iraq dossier
Tony Blair has published his long-awaited dossier of evidence against Iraq, which Downing Street has described as a "serious, sober assessment of the threat from Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction".
MPs will have just hours to read the document before an emergency debate in Parliament.
The dossier warns that Saddam Husssein is only a year or two away from building a nuclear weapon, and that he could already deploy a weapon of mass destruction with just 45 minutes notice.
Peter Kilfoyle said:
The dossier is a judgement, it is not attributed and it is unsubstantiated.
Frank Field said:
It does add to knowledge we have, key point is the obstructions that were placed against inspections. It is important that the Security Council is in charge and that Inspectors are given teeth.
Weapons are being developed for offensive purposes, there is a clear and present danger, it needs to be dealt with. We hope it can be done by inspections route, but we may have to go in. It will add to public's debate.
The Chairman of the Liberal Democrats: Mark Oaten MP said on the programme:
We need to work with the UN, inspections are the only way ahead. There is a great concern in the UK. We need to be calm, and military action is only a last resort.
The 55-page document about the threat posed by Iraq's alleged weapons programmes will be available on various British Government websites from 0800 BST (0700 GMT).
Further pressure is looming at the United Nations, with a tough new resolution, calling for Iraq to re-admit weapons inspectors and abandon any weapons of mass destruction, to be considered "within days".
US President George Bush has said it would be a resolution "to disarm Saddam Hussein... before he threatens civilisation".
The UK Parliament begins its emergency recall at 1130 BST (1030 GMT), with backbench Labour rebels planning to force a vote later in the day to voice their opposition to a possible war.
The new dossier is seen as a key tool in trying to win over backbench and public support for taking action against Iraq.
Downing Street says the document will "nail the lie" that Iraq does not possess weapons of mass destruction.
'Containment has failed'
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said it showed that the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's regime was not "some historic leftover" but was "real, serious and represents a mounting challenge to the international community".
According to Downing Street officials, Mr Blair told his cabinet on Monday evening: "The truth is, the policy of containment has not worked."
That is a message Mr Blair is likely to give MPs as he begins Parliament's emergency recall with a statement, before taking questions.
Mr Straw will then lead MPs in the debate, with simultaneous discussion of the crisis in the House of Lords.
Although ministers are refusing to give MPs a formal vote, dozens of backbenchers plan to voice their opposition to possible military action by forcing a technical vote.
Anti-war campaigners will simultaneously make their case known through news conferences and protests at Westminster.
Cabinet ministers such as Commons Leader Robin Cook and Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett were thought to have grave concerns about possible armed action.
International Development Secretary Clare Short has been the most outspoken of them, saying it would be wrong to have another Gulf War.
But after Monday's meeting, Ms Short said the cabinet was "all agreed".
The Conservatives support Mr Blair's stance against Iraq, although some Tory backbenchers have expressed concern at private meetings.
Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith argues the threat of military action is essential to ensure Saddam Hussein allows weapons inspections to restart.
Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy has instead taken a critical line, saying all diplomatic and political avenues must be explored before military action is considered.
Mr Kennedy said: "Am I alone in worrying about the undermining of the moral, legal and practical authority of the United Nations? I think not."
The Commons debate comes as an ICM poll for the Guardian newspaper suggests 37% of Britons would support military action, with 46% against and 18% undecided.
A total of 86% of the 1,000 people surveyed over the weekend said ministers should seek the support of Parliament and the UN before taking military action.
Iraq was a major issue in the German election after Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder voiced emphatic opposition to military action - upsetting US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who said it had "poisoned" relations between the two countries.
Tony Blair is due to visit Moscow in October to try to persuade President Vladimir Putin to support the American and British position on Iraq.
IRAQ DOSSIER - EXECUTIVE SUMMARY - FULL TEXT
1.Under Saddam Hussein Iraq developed chemical and biological weapons, acquired missiles allowing it to attack neighbouring countries with these weapons and persistently tried to develop a nuclear bomb. Saddam has used chemical weapons, both against Iran and against his own people. Following the Gulf War, Iraq had to admit to all this. And in the ceasefire of 1991 Saddam agreed unconditionally to give up his weapons of mass destruction.
2.Much information about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction is already in the public domain from UN reports and from Iraqi defectors.This points clearly to Iraq's continuing possession, after 1991, of chemical and biological agents and weapons produced before the Gulf War. It shows that Iraq has refurbished sites formerly associated with the production of chemical and biological agents. And it indicates that Iraq remains able to manufacture these agents, and to use bombs, shells, artillery rockets and ballistic missiles to deliver them.
3.An independent and well-researched overview of this public evidence was provided by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) on 9 September. The IISS report also suggested that Iraq could assemble nuclear weapons within months of obtaining fissile material from foreign sources.
4.As well as the public evidence, however, significant additional information is available to the Government from secret intelligence sources, described in more detail in this paper. This intelligence cannot tell us about everything. However, it provides a fuller picture of Iraqi plans and capabilities. It shows that Saddam Hussein attaches great importance to possessing weapons of mass destruction which he regards as the basis for Iraq 's regional power.It shows that he does not regard them only as weapons of last resort.He is ready to use them, including against his own population,and is determined to retain them, in breach of United Nations Security Council Resolutions (UNSCR).
5.Intelligence also shows that Iraq is preparing plans to conceal evidence of these weapons, including incriminating documents, from renewed inspections. And it confirms that despite sanctions and the policy of containment, Saddam has continued to make progress with his illicit weapons programmes.
6.As a result of the intelligence we judge that Iraq has: - continued to produce chemical and biological agents; - military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, including against its own Shia population. Some of these weapons are deployable within 45 minutes of an order to use them; - command and control arrangements in place to use chemical and biological weapons. Authority ultimately resides with Saddam Hussein. (There is intelligence that he may have delegated this authority to his son Qusai); - developed mobile laboratories for military use, corroborating earlier reports about the mobile production of biological warfare agents; - pursued illegal programmes to procure controlled materials of potential use in the production of chemical and biological weapons programmes; - tried covertly to acquire technology and materials which could be used in the production of nuclear weapons; - sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa, despite having no active civil nuclear power programme that could require it; - recalled specialists to work on its nuclear programme; - illegally retained up to 20 al-Hussein missiles, with a range of 650km, capable of carrying chemical or biological warheads; - started deploying its al-Samoud liquid propellant missile, and has used the absence of weapons inspectors to work on extending its range to at least 200km, which is beyond the limit of 150km imposed by the United Nations; - started producing the solid-propellant Ababil-100, and is making efforts to extend its range to at least 200km,which is beyond the limit of 150km imposed by the United Nations; - constructed a new engine test stand for the development of missiles capable of reaching the UK Sovereign Base Areas in Cyprus and NATO members (Greece and Turkey), as well as all Iraq's Gulf neighbours and Israel; - pursued illegal programmes to procure materials for use in its illegal development of long range missiles; - learnt lessons from previous UN weapons inspections and has already begun to conceal sensitive equipment and documentation in advance of the return of inspectors.
7.These judgements reflect the views of the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). More details on the judgements and on the development of the JIC's assessments since 1998 are set out in Part 1 of the paper.
8.Iraq's weapons of mass destruction are in breach of international law. Under a series of UN Security Council Resolutions Iraq is obliged to destroy its holdings of these weapons under the supervision of UN inspectors. Part 2 of the paper sets out the key UN Security Council Resolutions.It also summarises the history of the UN inspection regime and Iraq's history of deception, intimidation and concealment in its dealings with the UN inspectors.
9.But the threat from Iraq does not depend solely on the capabilities we have described. It arises also because of the violent and aggressive nature of Saddam Hussein's regime. His record of internal repression and external aggression gives rise to unique concerns about the threat he poses. The paper briefly outlines in Part 3 Saddam's rise to power, the nature of his regime and his history of regional aggression.Saddam's human rights abuses are also catalogued, including his record of torture, mass arrests and summary executions.
10.The paper briefly sets out how Iraq is able to finance its weapons programme. Drawing on illicit earnings generated outside UN control,Iraq generated illegal income of some $3 billion in 2001
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