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Tuesday, 12 March, 2002, 10:16 GMT
Hurd warns on Iraq action
Tony Blair (left) and Dick Cheney
Tony Blair and Dick Cheney discussed action
America will not get Arab support for a military strike on Iraq unless the bloodshed in the Middle East is stopped, former UK foreign secretary Lord Hurd has warned.

I think they have to focus on the Palestine situation before they can actually deal sensibly and successfully with Iraq

Lord Hurd
Tory former foreign secretary
He said there was only a "slim" chance of any Arab backing if the US did not stop Israelis killing Arabs.

The Conservative peer insisted that the world also needed to find a credible successor to Iraq's Saddam Hussein.

Lord Hurd of Westwell was speaking as US vice president Dick Cheney began a 10-day mission to seek out Middle East support for a military attack on Iraq.

Mounting pressure

The former Conservative foreign secretary said he was sure the King of Jordan would tell Mr Cheney that he would not get any Arab support for such a measure unless the killing stops in the Middle East.

His warning came as MPs continued to put Prime Minister Tony Blair under pressure over Iraq - with a fresh Commons motion calling for no action to be taken unless it was backed by a specific mandate from the UN security council.

Lord Hurd
Lord Hurd: US has power to change Israel policy
So far six MPs have signed the motion, which states that action against Iraq can only be "morally justified" with UN support, was laid down by Scottish Nationalist Angus Robertson.

Some 71 backbenchers, mostly Labour and including several former ministers, have already backed a motion expressing "deep unease" over the prospect of support for a US led military campaign.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is likely to be quizzed on the subject by MPs at foreign office question time in the House of Commons later on Tuesday.

He is also seeking to allay the fears of members of the Labour backbench foreign affairs committee at a meeting.

During discussions at Downing Street with Mr Cheney on Monday, Mr Blair warned that Iraq posed a real threat to world stability but no decisions have been taken on how to tackle Saddam Hussein's build-up of weapons of mass destruction.

Attack imminent

Mr Blair said: "There is a threat from Saddam Hussein and the weapons of mass destruction that he has acquired. It is not in doubt at all."

BBC political correspondent Mark Mardell said a well placed minister had told him that there would be action against Iraq by the end of the year.

Lord Hurd said the best way forward was to get a UN security council resolution that would say to Saddam Hussein: "'Look, you must let in the UN inspectors this time, in a way and with procedures which mean they can actually do their job.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
The US has threatened to remove Saddam Hussein by force

"'If you don't do that, then you are open to military action'."

Lord Hurd, foreign secretary between 1989 and 1995, stressed: "Vice-president Cheney will find when he gets to Jordan the king will say to him that the Americans have to find a way of stopping the killing in Palestine before they can get Arab support.

"If you are an Arab sitting and watching your television, what do you see? You don't see Saddam Hussein attacking his neighbours.

"You see Israel trying to kill really two or three innocent Palestinians for every innocent Israeli. That's the policy at the moment.

They have got to find some credible Iraqis who can take the place of Saddam Hussein

Lord Hurd
Tory former foreign secretary

"So long as that is so, then I think the chances of getting Arab support for an American attack on an Arab country, Iraq, would be very slim."

Lord Hurd said America had the power to change Israeli policy.

"I think they have to focus on the Palestine situation before they can actually deal sensibly and successfully with Iraq," he argued.

"The other thing they have to do is they have got to find some credible Iraqis who can take the place of Saddam Hussein.

"Iraq is an important Arab country, always will be. We have got to find people who can run it in a way that is decent for the Iraqis and safe for the rest of us."

The BBC's David Chazan
"Tony Blair is standing shoulder to shoulder with America"
The BBC's David Shukman
"Washington's number 1 target is now Iraq"
The BBC's Mark Mardell
"The key to opinion is the strength of the evidence against Saddam Hussein"
See also:

11 Mar 02 | Americas
Cheney's 'thinking through' tour
12 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Blair's terror dilemma
11 Mar 02 | Americas
War 'playing into al-Qaeda's hands'
07 Mar 02 | Middle East
Washington's case against Saddam
11 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Labour MPs warn against Iraq action
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