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Michael Ancram, MP, shadow foreign secretary
Michael Ancram, MP, shadow foreign secretary
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW: MICHAEL ANCRAM, SHADOW FOREIGN SECRETARY MARCH 3RD, 2002

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: Thank you very much there to Baroness Amos. Now is that enough? Is Britain doing enough, is the Commonwealth doing enough?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: No I don't believe they are and I don't think they've been doing enough for a long time, I think the problem has been that the message from the Commonwealth, from the British Government, from the European Union, has been uncertain at a time when if we'd been firm some six months ago that message might have got through to President Mugabe. All you've heard is talks from the British Government, from Europe, now from Baroness Amos, about talks about talks in the future. And that is a message which to someone like President Mugabe is giving him the green light to go ahead. I would like not only to have seen sanctions much earlier, not only threatened but imposed because of what's been happening in Zimbabwe and that's what the opposition there wanted, but I would like now to hear a very clear message that if this election is not free and fair and democratic then the international community, not just unilaterally or the Commonwealth on its own, but the international community will take action to make sure that that situation is rectified.

DAVID FROST: And if nobody will do that, or if everybody wants unanimity or whatever, should we then consider the thing we were putting there to Baroness Amos? I mean should we consider ourselves, unilaterally, suspending relations, diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I believe we've got to show, as a country here, that we simply are not prepared to tolerate and to use the words that Tony Blair used in his conference speech about Zimbabwe, this type of behaviour we're seeing, and if we need to do that then we should do that. But that mustn't be the prime objective. The prime objective must be to say, this is becoming an international problem; you have President Mugabe effectively setting up a fascist state in that part of southern Africa, with all sorts of implications, not just for that region but for the international community as whole; we see President Gadafi now becoming involved in Zimbabwe, with all the implications that can have. We want to see the international community responding and, you know, we've built coalitions before, I think that's what we should be doing now is building a coalition to make sure that President Mugabe knows that we mean business.

DAVID FROST: We've got to show them that we mean business and I don't think he thinks so yet, does he?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: He doesn't because the message has been so unclear. I'd accuse the government here of dithering. I was calling for targeted sanctions in November and December and effectively being accused of being irresponsible for doing so. If we'd given a clear signal then, I think there was a chance - a chance - that we might have seen free and fair elections. I don't believe that is now possible, I'm just hoping that the people of Zimbabwe, despite the intimidation and the murder and the violence and the suppression of the press, will still show President Mugabe that they're prepared to come out and vote against him.

DAVID FROST: And you said, you said it's a fascist regime that he's fashioning there, I mean he is a classic example of a black racist, isn't he?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: Well not - it's not just a question of racism because he's actually doing the same to his own people and what we are actually seeing are all, I think, are all the elements of a fascist dictatorship: the suppression of the press, the intimidation of your opponents, the murder of opponents, the torture and detention of literally thousands of people over the last 12 months, I think there were over 50 murders in the last 12 months which are political murders in that country. Those are all the elements of a fascist dictatorship and if the international community doesn't see that, now, then it's very concerning. I was very pleased when I went to America before Christmas to see that in Washington they had a far clearer appreciation of that than, I have to say, I find in, with our government in this country.

DAVID FROST: Is there any hope that this election, this close, can be free and fair - I was suggesting that it was already clear that it wasn't going to be free and fair - but is there anyway magically it could be?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: There might be a possibility of Morgan Tsvangirai winning it, the opposition winning it, and I know that they are optimistic that that can happen, but we know that there's been voter registration misdirections, we know that people are being intimidated out of the areas where they can vote so that they won't vote, and there's always the danger, even if there is a vote, that President Mugabe will find some way of making sure that the count doesn't reflect the actual result. We've got to be very clear that, unless this election is seen to be fair and free and democratic, the international community will not stand back and just allow him to do what he's doing to that part of Africa.

DAVID FROST: What do you feel, on another policy issue, what do you feel about the pressure we're under now for our troops to stay longer in Afghanistan? Turkey seem to be procrastinating about taking over the, taking over the supervision and so on, and Tony Blair is under considerable pressure that our troops, in the best interests of peace, domestic peace, should, should stay there longer than April. Do you think they should?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: Obviously, we will always do our duty as we've always done our duty as a country and I'm sure that if there is any requirement and a need for British troops then that will be met. But I do have to say this, and we've got to be very cautious because the, our top military man, who said before Christmas that we were likely to get our hands caught in what he described as the mangle of Afghanistan, and there's always the danger that once in it was going to be difficult to come out, we must make it absolutely clear that we have a mandate there and a remit which is limited in time and limited in content and we're not asked to go beyond that, we're not asked to find ourselves in a situation where it becomes increasingly difficult to get out. And we will be pressing the Government for those assurances over the next few days.

DAVID FROST: And what about the situation, what President Bush has said about Iraq and about taking military action against Iraq as the next target in the war against terror, do you support the president on that?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I support the president, as does Tony Blair, and I'm delighted to hear that repeated on the news this morning. In pointing out that Iraq is a problem that we can't turn our backs on, it is a very, very dangerous problem, because it has weapons of mass destruction which we know are not defensive and therefore are capable of being used and capable of creating not just mayhem in the region but also on a much wider basis as well. And I'm absolutely clear that we can't allow that situation to continue. There are many ways in which that could be resolved - military may be one of them - what is important is that we don't rule anything in or rule anything out at the moment because we don't want to give an uncertain message to Saddam Hussein, we want him to also see that we, actually as an international community, mean business on this front too.

DAVID FROST: But what's changed Michael, there was six years after the Gulf War when you were in power and you didn't do anything particularly this, military action against Iraq and so on - should you have done more in those six years?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I think we, we learn lessons. I think that the sanctions regime that has operated has not been successful, and indeed I think those general sanction regimes tend to harm the people rather than the regimes, which is why we've taken more targeted sanctions in our, both against Saddam Hussein and indeed against, as we were saying earlier, those of Mugabe. But the objective must be clear, and the objective is to get the dismantling of the weapons of mass destruction that exist, in those rogue states - not just, not just in Iraq - and I would, I would obviously, all of us would prefer not to see military action but if military action is what it takes in order to achieve that, we cannot rule it out, we must make it absolutely clear that the objective will be met and will be achieved.

DAVID FROST: And finally, The Sunday Times here, dossier reveals Byers lies, MPs ... lots of other Byers stories, has this story still got legs or has Stephen Byers successfully survived?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I think it's got legs because it has done a lot of damage to our democratic process. What we saw last week was a minister lying to the public on a television programme, coming into the House of Commons, admitting he had told an untruth, probably in the course of that also misleading the House on other areas, and then being congratulated by the Prime Minister for doing so. Now that is a total breach of the conventions by which our democracy works, which is that we can put faith in what ministers say to us, we do believe they tell the truth. If it is now all right to lie, that is a very, very dangerous undermining of our democracy and as you've seen from what Iain Duncan-Smith has written in the papers this morning, we will do something about that.

DAVID FROST: Thank you very much Michael.

INTERVIEW ENDS


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