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Robin Cook, Leader of the House of Commons
Robin Cook, Leader of the House of Commons
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: ROBIN COOK MP LEADER OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS SEPTEMBER 16TH, 2001

DAVID FROST:
Well as I said politicians here have been united in grief and in anger this week. Parliament was recalled, MPs standing in silent tribute to those who died. Later that day many of them joined the Queen at St Paul's Cathedral in a service of remembrance. Political divides were forgotten for a few moments as representatives from all parties sat side-by-side sharing their sorrow. With me now is the former Foreign Secretary, now leader of the House of Commons, Robin Cook. We welcome you back for a tragic reason this time.

ROBIN COOK:
Indeed.

DAVID FROST:
What is the situation there, Iain Duncan Smith was saying that he would favour our providing in addition to all the other means of support, ground troops in, in certain circumstances and so on, is that something we, we are going to do or we would consider doing?

ROBIN COOK:
Well David, just to clear, there's no immediate proposal as to what precisely be done or what will be involved but the Prime Minister made it clear when we met in the Commons on Friday that Britain would stand shoulder-to-shoulder, would provide help for a determined, measured, effective action in order to bring to justice and to take account, bring to account those who carried out this appalling evil act and we will consider whatever requests are put to us and nothing is ruled out and nothing's ruled in.

DAVID FROST:
Because we've seen the difficulty of effective bombing without ground troops in the bombing of Iraq which hasn't really worked has it?

ROBIN COOK:
Well in the case of Iraq do remember that over a decade, what we have succeeded in doing is preventing Saddam Hussein getting access to the weapons of mass destruction which is his consuming ambition and by the way David when you refer to the bombing of Iraq, at the present time what we are seeking to do is prevent Saddam Hussein bombing his own people in the south and in the north by making sure he cannot fly planes over them.

DAVID FROST:
That was the purpose. Do you see the handiwork of Saddam Hussein in this tragedy anywhere?

ROBIN COOK:
I'm not aware of what intelligence there may be and I've not seen any reports that he may be directly involved in it and as the United States have been very careful to say at the present time, they're treating Osama Bin Laden as the prime suspect, we certainly want to work with them and of course one of the strengths that Britain does have because of historical reasons, we do have very good information on South Asia and I'm sure we'll be sharing that with the United States.

DAVID FROST:
We talked about war, obviously, throughout this programme this morning and we've also talked about whether, whether it is really a war because a war is supposed to be between nation states and so on. But a war against an almost invisible enemy has particular problems hasn't it?

ROBIN COOK:
I think it's very important we realise that is not something that is going to be resolved by one quick magic strike, it's going to be, as the Prime Minister said on Friday, it's going to require determination, it is going to take time. One strike will not take out this problem, it's one we're just going to have to carry on on a sustained basis, make sure we maintain our own security on a sustained basis as well as tackling those who may have perpetrated this evil and appalling act we also have to do what we can in order to bring peace in those areas where there are tensions which is why the Prime Minister on Friday did say one consequence of this ought to be to reinvigorate the Middle East peace process.

DAVID FROST:
Does that in fact the point made by Nelson Mandela about America being careful not to do something so big that it's as unpopular as the original, unpopular is a euphemism but for the original act, calibrating this as we were talking about with Dr Kissenger, calibrating it right is the most difficult part of this isn't it?

ROBIN COOK:
It is very important that the action that's taken is effective, that is to say it's effective and striking at those who were responsible for what happened on Tuesday in the United States and is effective also in making sure that it does not breed further terrorism and that is a very important judgement that must be made. There are other ways of course in which we can sustain the struggle against terrorism, Dr Kissenger did mention the funding of the terrorist groups, Osama Bin Laden is a man with hundreds of millions of pounds, he does not keep them in an Afghan bank, there are other ways in which we can try and make sure we disrupt that network and we must make sure that we maintain all possible measures, both military and financial and security, in order to defeat those who want to defeat democracy.

DAVID FROST:
Seeing the images there and talking to Iain Duncan Smith earlier reminded me that Parliament was pretty impressive on Friday?

ROBIN COOK:
Well first I think it was very important that Parliament was recalled because this was an attack on democracy and the values of freedom, Parliament is an expression of our democracy and it was absolutely right that we should come together and should express the views of the people who voted for this Parliament and I welcome the unity that this demonstrated and the backing that was offered by the opposition. I thought that this sent a very strong message to those who want to destroy democracy that it will not be destroyed. And a very strong message to the people of the United States who are our close ally and our friends and who appreciated the very strong messages of support and condolence that we provided.

DAVID FROST:
And in terms of what, what's about to happen, we've talked about retribution this morning but not exactly, or retaliation, or revenge, would you say that the third word, revenge, should not figure in our thoughts?

ROBIN COOK:
Well the word I prefer is justice, those who have carried out this must be brought to account and must be effectively brought to account both because what they did was evil and has had dramatic consequences for those affected by it. But also David because it is incumbent in all the world leaders to make sure this cannot happen again, they must act to make sure that those that carried out this deed cannot do it again.

DAVID FROST:
Do we believe, as a country, therefore in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth?

ROBIN COOK:
No we have a legal system, we will uphold that legal system, the tragedy is that those who plotted this, those who carried out it live without that legal system. I do wish that those who harboured them will be willing to cooperate in the normal international process of extradition but if they will not then we have to find ways in which we can call to account those who did it and make sure they can't do it again. That's, after all, everybody watching this would want their politicians to assure them is going to happen.

DAVID FROST: And how long do you think this war will take?

ROBIN COOK:
I do not think this an occasion when, when sensibly put a deadline to it or a date by when it'll be over, I think we'll have to be constantly vigilant and as we have been saying over the last few days, particularly in terms of aviation travel, security systems will never be the same again, we must make sure they are effective and they are alert.

DAVID FROST:
Robin thank you very much indeed.

ROBIN COOK:
Thank you.

DAVID FROST:
And that's it for this special edition of Breakfast with Frost, the end of a week when the world we recognised may have gone forever. For many there are simply no words to express the horror of September the 11th, 2001 and it's what we saw that day that may haunt all of us forever. We leave you with those silent images, goodbye.

END


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