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Breakfast with Frost
General Myers
General Myers
On Sunday, 30th March Sir David talked to General Myers, the most senior United States general, and the Commander of British Forces during the first gulf war in 1991, General Sir Peter de la Billiere.

Sir David also talked to the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros Ghali and Home Secretary David Blunkett MP.

The Sunday newspapers were reviewed by the Deputy Editor of the New Statesman, Cristina Odone and by the veteran Daily Telegraph writer, Bill Deedes.

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In today's programme, the most senior United States general expressed his regret at the deaths of British soldiers killed in Iraq by American "friendly fire".

"It's the absolute saddest tragedy that any of us can experience," he told Sir David Frost. "I regret the lives of the crew of the Tornado that was engaged by the Patriot system and I think we have had another friendly fire incident since then.

"There is simply no excuse for that. We clearly have technical means to prevent that, we have techniques, procedures and tactics to help prevent that. I suppose in the middle of war, which is by nature a very chaotic event, at certain times on the battlefield those things happen.

"But I don't ever accept that they're inevitable, and I don't think we should ever stop trying to find means to prevent that from happening. My heart and the heart of our joint chiefs of staff go out to those in the British forces who have been harmed in this way."

General Myers re-inforced his apology, saying: "I don't think we have to live with situations like that, and one of my jobs has to be to ensure that we get the resources and the technical means to ensure that in the future this never, never happens again. And that will be my quest."

General Myers paid tribute to the contribution being made by British forces to the war in Iraq.

"It makes a difference every time I go to bed at night knowing we have a staunch ally like Britain solidly with us in this and sharing the risk and trying to do what's right for not only the region but the world in terms of weapons of mass destruction falling in terrorists' hands."

General Myers refused to predict how long the war would last.

"I would think the toughest fighting is ahead of us," he told Sir David. But he said the coalition forces could afford to be patient.

"With the outcome never in doubt, we can afford to take our time and set the conditions on the battlefield, whether that battlefield is the Republican Guard divisions now arrayed south of Baghdad, or whether those conditions are in Baghdad proper."

Click on the highlighted links to read the full transcripts.

The Commander of British forces during the first Gulf War in 1991, General Sir Peter de la Billiere, also told Sir David that he favoured a patient approach.

"If we go in quite easy, which is what is clearly the policy, it will take longer but the casualties will be less, the destruction will be less and we must accept the penalty that the war will drag on for a little longer. And I personally support that we shold fight easy, which is what we appear to be doing."

He added that he believed the allies had a more difficult job this time. "Not only have they got a more complex political situation in this war, but they've got a much more complex military operation," he said.

Also on the programme, the former Secretary General of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros Ghali accused the United States and Britain of violating the UN charter, by going to war against Iraq. He said he believed they should have sought a second UN Resolution before launching military action.

"What is dangerous is that this war is reinforcing the position of the fundamentalists in the Arab world," he told Sir David. "This war corresponds to the dialectic of the fundamentalists, who say there is a crusade against the Islamic world."

But he insisted that the diplomatic crisis of recent weeks would not destroy the UN. "During the last 55 years, the UN has had many international crises and the UN has been able to overcome those different crises," he said.

The programme also featured an interview with the Home Secretary, David Blunkett MP. Mr Blunkett responded to an article in a Sunday newspaper by his former Cabinet colleague, Robin Cook, calling for an end to the war.

"Robin resigned with great dignity and put his argument with great force," he told Sir David. "But it's hard to retain that dignity or force if you advocate capitulation after just ten days. And I don't think other Members of Parliament will take that view."

Mr Blunket admitted there would be difficulties within the Labour Party if the conflict were still going on in the autumn, at the time of the party conference.

"Would a conference in a prolonged confrontation be difficult? Yes it would. And I don't think there would be any mistake about that," he said.


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