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Sunday, 15 September, 2002, 06:54 GMT 07:54 UK
Straw: Time running out for Iraq
Mr Straw said Iraq must not undermine the UN
Mr Straw said Iraq must not undermine the UN
Time is running out for Saddam Hussein to rid his country of weapons of mass destruction or face regime change, says Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

The warning to the Iraqi dictator - the strongest yet from the government - followed a call by US president George Bush to the UN to "show some backbone" and confront Saddam over Iraq.

They (Iraq) have been playing games with us for long enough

Jack Straw
Mr Straw, speaking from the UN where intensive discussions are under way about a possible new resolution against Baghdad, said there was not a foreign minister in the world that did not want to see the back of the Iraqi president.

He said the UN Security Council must pose to Saddam a "very clear choice: Either he deals with those weapons of mass destruction or his regime will have to end".

"But the choice is his, and he hasn't got much time to make up his mind," the Foreign Secretary said in an interview due to be broadcast on Sky's Sunday With Adam Boulton programme.

Iraq dossier

Mr Straw also promised that the dossier which will be produced by the government in 10 days' time will contain "new facts" about Saddam's regime.

US President George W. Bush
Bush said world peace was at stake

Mr Straw added: "They (Iraq) have been playing games with us for long enough, played games with world peace for long enough."

The Iraqis had been playing "fast and loose with the international community", he said.

Weapons inspectors had to be readmitted "without restriction, without condition".

The Foreign Secretary said he had talked to his counterparts around the world at the UN meeting and there was "overwhelming support" for President Bush's position.

Iraq was an "extraordinarily dangerous regime that needs to be brought within the international legal system".

The government's dossier against Iraq, expected in time for when Parliament is recalled on 24 September, will contain evidence of Saddam's chemical and biological weapons, and his desire to acquire nuclear weapons, Mr Straw said.

It would include information published last week by the International Institute for Strategic Studies and as much intelligence information as possible, he added.

"It will contain new facts," Mr Straw said. "There is no need to look in the crystal about the record of Saddam Hussein, it is there in the book."

'No split'

Mr Straw's comments were likely to anger many Labour MPs, including the former Culture Secretary Chris Smith, who has warned an attack on Iraq would cause the "disintegration of the international coalition against terrorism".

But the Foreign Secretary denied there was a split in the Cabinet over Iraq.

He said: "I have no argument with my Cabinet colleagues about this. What the Cabinet will want to discuss is how we will proceed from where we are to the future.

Iraqi workers pedal past huge poster of Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein is accused of "mocking" UN
"I believe that you will find that this Cabinet is as united on the need for resolute action as it has been in the past."

Earlier, in a speech to the UN general assembly, the Foreign Secretary said the UN must insist Saddam re-admitted weapons inspectors or both the organisation and Iraq would face the consequences.

He said the international community must not "stand by and do nothing" while Saddam "persistently mocked" the authority of the UN by defying its resolutions on weapons of mass destruction.

The UN had to be clear to Baghdad and to itself of the "consequences which will flow from a failure by Iraq to meet its obligations", he said.

If the UN failed to deal with the challenge of Iraq, it would be "seriously weakened", making the world a much more dangerous place, the Foreign Secretary said.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said: "No one could quarrel with the Foreign Secretary when he says that the authority of the UN must be upheld.

"But the United Nations is bound by international law. Military action must be a last resort when all other diplomatic and political alternatives have failed."

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
"We need a much more structured and methodical approach to the problem of failing states"
The BBC's James Robbins in New York
"The foreign secretary is pleased with the UN's shift towards toughness"

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15 Sep 02 | Middle East
14 Sep 02 | Politics
13 Sep 02 | UK
12 Sep 02 | Politics
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