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Monday, 23 September, 2002, 14:15 GMT 15:15 UK
Kennedy warns of 'US imperialism'
Charles Kennedy
Kennedy: Taking a 'sane and measured' approach
Charles Kennedy has delivered his strongest warning yet over the prospect of war with Iraq.

The Liberal Democrat leader expressed alarm over "more than a hint" of US "imperialism" as the international community considers action against Saddam Hussein.


Am I alone in worrying about the undermining of the moral, legal and practical authority of the United Nations?

Charles Kennedy
Mr Kennedy told his party's annual conference in Brighton that all diplomatic and political avenues must be explored before military action is considered.

He used an emergency statement in Brighton to ask: "Am I alone in feeling increasingly concerned about this concept called 'regime change'? I think not.

"Who decides the legitimacy of such change? On what basis in international law? And with what ultimate objectives in mind?

"I have yet to hear a satisfactory answer to those questions. There is more than a hint of imperialism here.

"Am I alone in worrying about the undermining of the moral, legal and practical authority of the United Nations? Again, I think not."

Weapons inspectors

The speech is Mr Kennedy's most forthright warning yet over the crisis, but he argued that it "constitutes a sane and measured approach".

"The first priority of the British government must be the return of the UN weapons inspectors," he told delegates.

"Anything less than unfettered access anywhere in Iraq is unacceptable."

Kofi Annan, UN secretary general
The UK must follow the UN's lead, says Kennedy
Mr Kennedy warned that the "sensitivities of the Muslim community at home and the views of the Arab world abroad" must be taken into account when considering the Iraq situation.

The Lib Dems leader has already criticised the "bellicose rhetoric" of some elements in the Bush administration.

'Dangers of military force'

He is doubtful over whether a long-awaited "dossier" of evidence against Saddam - due to be published on Tuesday - will calm fears over military action.

He wants the United Nations to be at the centre of the debate over Iraq.

"We Liberal Democrats will do everything we possibly can to ensure that the route of unconditional inspection within the UN structure is followed rather than the extreme uncertainties and dangers of the use of military force."

'Obligatory'

Mr Kennedy stressed that while he would not criticise the prime minister over his efforts to combat international terrorism, he warned: "But we will not suspend out critical faculties either.

"That would be to abandon the necessary and obligatory role which is effective parliamentary opposition."

The Commons should be able to vote on any proposal that might involve commiting British troops to military action, he said.

Parliament will be recalled at 1130BST on Tuesday, with the long-awaited dossier of evidence against Iraq published at 0800 the same day.

The Liberal Democrat party conference agenda has been re-arranged and most debates have been moved to other days to allow MPs to return to Westminster for the recall of Parliament.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Reeta Chakrabarti in Brighton
"He wants to position his party to represent those worried about military action"
Emma Nicholson MEP and Jenny Tonge MP
"We must do everything with the backing of international law"
Liberal Democrat Leader Charles Kennedy
"Am I alone in feeling increasingly concerned about this concept of regime change?"

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20 Sep 02 | Politics
20 Sep 02 | Politics

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