BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK: Politics  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 18 September, 2002, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
Major backs UN's Iraq role
John Major addresses troops in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War
John Major was prime minister in the Gulf War
Using the United Nations is the best way to confront Saddam Hussein but the UK and US should still prepare for possible war against Iraq, former Prime Minister John Major has said.


We should continue to prepare for an assault on Iraq, if that should prove necessary

John Major
Mr Major, who was prime minister during the Gulf war, said Iraq's offer of readmitting weapons inspectors should be "tested to destruction" but not allowed to be used as a delaying tactic.

If the UN refused to act to enforce its own resolutions, that should not be a block to other countries moving to topple Saddam Hussein.

Tony Blair on Wednesday promised to keep up the pressure on Saddam Hussein, whom he said had "played around for years" over weapons inspections.

Mr Blair told BBC News: "It is the pressure that has brought him to this position.

"We've got to keep up the pressure and make sure that the weapons inspectors actually go in, not that he says they'll go in, and can do their job."

Dangers of ignoring UN

Former premier Mr Major said obtaining new UN resolutions about Iraq might not be easy but it was important the "vital effort" was made.

"If the United Nations is bypassed there would be a price to pay in lost cooperation with other nations, not least in the ongoing war against terrorism," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

But if the UN allowed its resolutions to be treated as "optional" then it would be legitimate for countries like America and the UK to act themselves.

Tariq Aziz
Iraq's Tariq Aziz says there is no reason for a US-led attack
Mr Major argued Iraq's weapons inspections offer should be pursued but warned about its "abysmal" record of compliance.

"We should continue to proceed with fresh UN resolutions and we should continue to prepare for an assault on Iraq, if that should prove necessary, as it well may," he continued.

1991 defended

A new conflict with Iraq would be aimed specifically at replacing Saddam Hussein's regime, said Mr Major.

That marked a key difference with the Gulf War when the US-led coalition was enforcing UN resolutions to reclaim Kuwait from Iraqi invaders.

A B-2 bombers
The US reportedly wants B-2 bombers based in the Indian Ocean
Mr Major defended the decision in 1991 not to move to topple Saddam Hussein, although he said nobody had expected the Iraqi president to survive.

"Neither America nor Britain for very, very many years would ever have been trusted again if we had broken our word and broken the law," he said.

'Respect Parliament'

The ex-MP said Parliament now needed to discuss issues like the exit strategy, who would replace the Iraqi regime and how long coalition troops would remain in Iraq after a conflict.

MPs should have been given the chance to debate such problems earlier, argued Mr Major, saying Parliament "should not be treated like a knackered old war horse".

He delivered an implied rebuke of Iain Duncan Smith, the current Conservative leader, for not asking key questions about the aftermath of a war.

Asked why Mr Duncan Smith was not asking those important questions, Mr Major replied: "You had better ask Iain that."

Split opinion

MPs return early from their summer break to Westminster on Tuesday, when the government's dossier of evidence on Iraq is also published.

Iraq has begun talks with the head of the UN weapons inspections team about its offer.

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz has said Baghdad's pledge to readmit weapons inspectors had removed any justification for a US-led attack.

The offer appears to have split the UN Security Council, with the US dismissing it as a tactical move and Russia saying no new UN resolution is now needed.

The New York Times newspaper has reported that the US wants to base up to six B-2 bombers on a British Indian Ocean territory - which would half the distance they fly to Iraq.

The Foreign Office is refusing to confirm whether the UK is giving permission for the planes to be based on the island Diego Garcia.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Former UK Prime Minister John Major
"I think this is an old chestnut"

Key stories

Analysis

CLICKABLE GUIDE

BBC WORLD SERVICE

AUDIO VIDEO

TALKING POINT
See also:

18 Sep 02 | Politics
15 Sep 02 | Middle East
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


E-mail this story to a friend



© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes