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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 April, 2004, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
'Tide of feeling' unleashed on Iraq
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online

Sir Crispin Tickell
Sir Crispin wants Britain to repair its relations with the Islamic world
One of the UK diplomats who signed a letter to the British prime minister on Middle East policy says he thinks it may have changed the political situation.

Sir Crispin Tickell, formerly British ambassador to the United Nations, was speaking to BBC News Online.

He said he and the 51 other signatories had acted because they were dismayed at the conduct of policy.

Sir Crispin deplored the effect of the coalition's failure to report how many Iraqis it had killed.

He said the letter had been "a time bomb under the policymakers".

It looks as if the decision to invade had been taken regardless of the circumstances. We all feel this is monstrous, and someone's got to say it.
Sir Crispin Tickell
Sir Crispin said: "We acted because we were all deeply dismayed at the way policy is being conducted on both Iraq and the Palestinian issue.

"Oliver Miles, the former ambassador in Tripoli, who organised the letter, found he was tapping into a deep well of unease, or even worse.

"The letter has unleashed a great tide of feeling: I've had a lot of people ringing up and saying 'good on you', and I haven't had a single call opposing what we've done.

"So we're encouraged, and I think we may somehow have reached a tipping point. A lot of people were extremely unhappy, and we've expressed it for them."

Sir Crispin said US policy in the region was doomed if it continued unchanged, and said what the letter had done was to underline the need for clear political objectives.

'Minimum force'

"We believe the use of force should be kept to the absolute minimum, as the British did in Northern Ireland", he said.

"I wasn't necessarily opposed to an invasion of Iraq. But I was opposed to its invasion in the circumstances in which it took place.

"There should have been a second UN resolution, and there should have been weapons of mass destruction discovered.

"But the head of the UN weapons inspectors, Hans Blix, had told almost the exact truth when he said he thought there weren't any.

"It looks as if the decision to invade had been taken regardless of the circumstances. We all feel this is monstrous, and someone's got to say it."

Message to Muslims

The letter says it is "disgraceful" that the coalition lacks information to allow it to estimate how many Iraqis have been killed in the last 13 months.

Asked what message this gave to Muslims, Sir Crispin said: "The kind of implication this gives is that US lives are more important than Iraqi lives, just as when five times more Palestinians than Israelis are being killed, but they aren't mentioned."

He said the UK could hope to repair its relations with the Islamic world if it acted on two fronts.

Sir Crispin said: "I think it needs to be much more explicit about the nature of our co-operation with the US in the conduct of policy in Iraq - the primacy of political objectives, and the kind of behaviour to be adopted towards the Iraqis.

"And it needs to take a strong view on Ariel Sharon's attempts to legitimise illegal settlements in Palestinian territory. If we did both of those we'd do a lot of good."

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