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Sunday, 17 March, 2002, 15:08 GMT
Short warns over Iraq action
Clare Short with Tony Blair
Clare Short with Tony Blair in Africa
International Development Secretary Clare Short has suggested she might quit her cabinet job if the UK backed an invasion of Iraq without first having the backing of the United Nations.

But the outspoken minister, who has quit senior Labour jobs twice on points of principle, says that she does not believe those circumstances would arise.


I am the same old Clare Short, and I'm proud to be a member of the government, but I've got lots of bottom lines and I don't expect the government to breach them

Clare Short
Cabinet minister
Speaking to BBC One's On the Record she said that being in the Cabinet had not mellowed her views, or meant that she had abandoned her principles.

Asked if she would quit her post if the UK supported a US invasion of Iraq, she said: " Well of course there were conditions in which I wouldn't be able to support action, but I don't expect them to be proposed.

"I don't think my government is going to do the wrong thing, but we've all got to have our bottom line," said Ms Short.

'Lots of bottom lines'

She was asked by interviewer John Humphrys whether she had become a team player and was no longer "the same old Clare Short".

Her response was: "I am the same old Clare Short, and I'm proud to be a member of the government, but I've got lots of bottom lines and I don't expect the government to breach them - but if they did I would (quit), you know, that's what you should be like in politics I think."

During the same interview Ms Short, ahead of her visit to a summit on aid in South America, said she understood the American desire to act after the 11 September terrorist attacks.

She added: "It's completely foolish to say that we can make the world safe by military action alone, we need effective development to make the world just and evenly developed."

'Sophisticated debate'

But Saddam Hussein is "determined to develop weapons of mass destruction", she said, but "blind military action against Iraq doesn't deal with the problem".

Ms Short added that with the "terrible suffering of both the Israeli and Palestinian people" and with "the anger there is in the Arab world" it would be "very unwise" to open up a military flank on Iraq.


We're in the process of seeking to get a new position through the United Nations which could force Saddam to comply with international law...we'll see how that goes

Peter Hain
Europe Minister
"My view is very strongly that we should face up to how serious this is. I mean chemical and biological weapons are almost more frightening than nuclear in that you don't need complicated machinery to deliver them.

"We can't put our heads in the sand, but people fear that there's going to be instant mass bombing or something. That won't do either. There aren't any detailed plans. We need a much more sophisticated debate about what's the best way to deal with it."

Her comments come at a time when more than 100 Labour MPs have signed a House of Commons motion expressing "deep unease" about military action against Iraq.

Earlier, Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain insisted concrete plans for military action would not be drawn up "for a while yet".

He said: "There are, of course, discussions in the corridors but there's no actual concrete plan of action and that won't happen for a while yet.

"We're in the process of seeking to get a new position through the United Nations which could force Saddam to comply with international law and his obligations and stop him terrorising or threatening the region. We'll see how that goes."

See also:

28 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Blair hints at Iraq action
15 Mar 02 | Business
UK criticises Bush aid plan
17 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Mowlam turns up heat on Blair
06 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Iraq prompts MP shouting match
04 Mar 02 | UK Politics
MP wants Iraq 'threat' published
11 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Labour MPs warn against Iraq action
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