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Breakfast with Frost
Jack Straw MP, foreign secretary
Jack Straw MP, foreign secretary

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

DAVID FROST: And this week of course Tony Blair bowed down to pressure from backbenchers and announced that Parliament would be recalled for an emergency debate on what to do about Iraq, as we were discussing. And this weekend the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the UN Security Council in his speech in New York, that's yesterday, that the very authority of the UN would be at stake if it didn't act. Now the world is watching to see what will happen next. Earlier I spoke to him and began by asking him whether we wanted one resolution, just a deadline, or an authorisation of force as well in the same resolution or did we want two resolutions, what were we calling for?

JACK STRAW: We haven't made a final decision about whether you have one resolution or two David, and that's something which can be discussed and is going to be discussed during the next week with our representatives here at the United Nations and with the other members of the so-called P5, that's the permanent five members of the Security Council and the other ten non permanent members. What however we are clear about is what the purpose of these resolutions must be, and that is first of all to recite all the resolutions which so far Saddam Hussein has ignored, to say that they're there as a result of this has plainly been a material breach of the will of the United Nations' Security Council. Then to say what Saddam Hussein must now do which has obviously to include above all the readmission of the weapons inspectors without condition and without restriction and then to make clear what the consequences of the failure to abide by this resolution will be.

DAVID FROST: And are you confident that you'll get through without a veto from any of the five permanent members?

JACK STRAW: Well I, you can never predict these things until the actual event, however I am greatly encouraged by the very positive framework for discussions which we've already had with the other members of the permanent five of the Security Council.

DAVID FROST: And what would happen if Saddam Hussein does do what we request fully, are we then saying to him you will not be attacked, you are able to stay if you behave?

JACK STRAW: I've always made it clear at time without number...that plainly if Saddam Hussein does comply with the spirit as well as the letter of all these United Nations Security Council Resolutions, does readmit the weapons inspectors and allow them to do their job without restrictions and without conditions then the case for military action recedes to the point almost of invisibility and that is obvious, and is obvious too to the Saddam Hussein regime. What isn't obvious, or hasn't been obvious to them up to now is whether the international community is serious about enforcing its will. As I said in my speech to the General Assembly, the whole world community now faces a very clear, if hard, choice about Iraq but we have to face these hard choices now otherwise the world will become a much more dangerous place. If we act in that manner, get that across by a Security Council Resolution to Iraq, then I believe that military action may be avoided. But we know from the record of this dreadful brutal regime that that is the only kind of language which they understand.

DAVID FROST: And in this country there's going to be an emergency House of Commons debate on Tuesday week but I gather no vote because that would be premature. But Robin Cook has said it would be inconceivable to commit British forces without the consent of the Commons, do you agree with that?

JACK STRAW: Well that's always been the case and it goes without saying and the Prime Minister and I made that clear and of course it was unconstitutional to do anything else, that goes without saying. There's never been a commitment of troops by the United Kingdom government in our democratic history which has not been approved and had the consent of the House of Commons. So far as a debate on Tuesday week is concerned the Security Council may not have even had its first meeting by that date still less have come to a resolution so as you've said the idea that you could make any decisions then or consent to decisions about military action is premature. But nonetheless it's extremely important that the House should be able to express its view and come to a conclusion.

DAVID FROST: And in terms of your Labour critics there's been this report that's been compiled for the NEC where they say it's widely believed that this Iraq issue, widely believed by your supporters, could lose the next election because voters will believe you're ignoring the bread and butter issues and so on, and that leads to quite a depth of hostility in the party. Do you think that you can turn that around?

JACK STRAW: Well I don't think we have to turn it round because I don't think it reflects in any sense majority opinion inside the Labour Party. Look what we're doing is, is acting on a broad front to create a more peaceful and prosperous world so we have to act on the so-called bread and butter issues of the world economy as well as of our own economy in the United Kingdom. But you can't have a successful economy, a prosperous world economy unless you have a peaceful world situation.

DAVID FROST: And what about the dossier, we've heard lots of allegations about Saddam Hussein some of which turned out not to be true, how is this dossier going to be more specific than everything we've heard so far and will it be published before, during or after the debate?

JACK STRAW: The dossier is due to be published early in the morning of Tuesday the 24th so that people have a chance to read it and digest it before the debate commences at 11.30. What's in the dossier? Well wait and see but first of all there'll be a digest of information which is already publicly known about the nature of the regime. One of the astonishing things for me who has read through the hundreds of pages of weapons inspectors reports, is how people up to now have not actually applied themselves to already published sources about the evil nature of this regime. But alongside digesting a digest of that information there will be as much of the product of intelligence as we can safely reveal, we have to be very, very careful about that but what this will do, just so that people, you know don't expect something they're not going to get from the dossier, what the dossier will do is to give further and better particulars about the nature of this regime.

DAVID FROST: And in terms of the overall scenario I suppose you can't imagine any situation that will come up in the next few months whereby we would not stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States even if we were the only one doing so?

JACK STRAW: Well yes to your first point, I don't believe for a moment we'll be the only ones doing so and what President Bush made very clear on Thursday is his commitment to the United Nations system and one aspect of his commitment to the system, a point that I was emphasising in my speech was with commitment goes responsibility by everybody else to ensure that this system of international law here at the United Nations is maintained enforced and upheld and that means making hard choices on behalf of the United Nations.

DAVID FROST: Jack thank you very much for joining us.

JACK STRAW: Thank you very much.

DAVID FROST: Jack Straw there, and now, many thanks to him.


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