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Sunday, May 10, 1998 Published at 18:41 GMT 19:41 UK


Cook - 'I'll quit if proved wrong'
image: [ Robin Cook:
Robin Cook: "I know I have nothing to hide"

The Foreign Secretary Robin Cook is coming under continuing pressure over the arms-to-Sierra Leone controversy.

On Sunday he once again insisted he had done nothing wrong and said that he and his ministers would quit if they were found to have acted in error.

Robin Cook is interviewed on the BBC's Breakfast with Frost programme (10'20")
But opposition parties say they are not satisfied with Mr Cook's repeated assurances and are calling for a further statement on the matter in the House of Commons.

Mr Cook has repeatedly rejected claims that ministers sanctioned a bid by the firm Sandline International to help the African state's deposed president regain power.

Sandline is facing an inquiry for allegedly breaching a UN embargo on supplying weapons.

But the shadow foreign secretary, Michael Howard, said on Sunday: "If he didn't know, why didn't he know?

[ image: Michael Howard:
Michael Howard: "let's have all the facts"
"If, as some people appear to be alleging, there was some deep-seated conspiracy in the Foreign Office to authorise a coup in West Africa involving a British naval ship, without telling ministers, the mind boggles. But let's have all the facts."

Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrats' foreign affairs spokesman, called for the inquiry to be widened to other departments, including the Ministry of Defence.

Mr Cook cancelled his official engagements on Sunday to handle the dispute about British involvement in efforts to end a coup in the West African state.

In an interview with BBC Television's Breakfast with Frost programme, Mr Cook said the allegations were "wholly false".

He said there was "no shred of evidence" that ministers had backed the activities of Sandline.

"Do not rush to judge"

"They are serious allegations. We are taking them very seriously," he said.

"That is why I have committed us to an investigation by somebody from outside the Foreign Office and that report will be published.

"I would ask press and public not to rush into judgement until we have that full and considered report," he said.

The BBC's Political Correspondent, Carole Walker, says the Foreign Office was unusually busy for a Sunday (1'35")
Mr Cook said reports that Foreign Office minister Tony Lloyd had offered to resign were untrue.

Mr Lloyd has admitted that there were errors the evidence he gave to MPs on the matter.

But Mr Cook said ministers would resign if the inquiry found they had behaved improperly.

"If ministers are found to have been at error, if they have knowingly misled the House of Commons, or if they have adopted the wrong policy, then they must take the consequences."

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  Relevant Stories

10 May 98 | UK
Arms-to-Africa affair dominates newspapers

10 May 98 | UK
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10 May 98 | UK
'I've nothing to hide,' says Cook

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  Internet Links

Sierra Leone website

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