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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 1 October, 2002, 07:41 GMT 08:41 UK
Straw wins Iraq backing
Clare Short and Jack Straw
Ministers are under pressure over Iraq
The government has avoided a Labour conference defeat over Iraq, after Foreign Secretary Jack Straw warned giving up the threat of force would let Saddam Hussein off the hook.


The best chance we have of resolving this crisis peacefully is by the toughest possible stand

Jack Straw
Delegates at Blackpool rejected a motion opposing any form of military action by 59.8% to 40.2% - revealing the depth of Labour divisions on the issue.

A second motion backing the government position - that military action must comply with international law and be used as a last resort - was agreed on a show of hands.

The heated debate saw ministers comparing failure to tackle Iraq with appeasing Hitler in the 1930s as anti-war campaigners accused America of wanting a war for oil.

Key paradox

Mr Straw invoked the example his Labour predecessor Ernie Bevin, who called for the international community to use more than words against fascist Germany in the 1930s.

Mr Straw said: "There's a paradox here we all have to face.

"It is the crux of the matter. The best chance we have of resolving this crisis peacefully is by the toughest possible stand which makes clear our readiness to use force if the international will continues to be defied."

Jack Straw
Jack Straw stressed the UN route to resolution
As talks continue on agreeing a new United Nations resolution on Iraq, Mr Straw was especially keen to emphasise the threat posed by failing to confront Saddam Hussein.

Letting "this tyrannical dictator off the hook" risked fundamentally undermining the UN, he argued.

Mr Straw stressed ministers all shared concern about the possibility of military action - and hoped it would come to that.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon drew comparisons with Adolf Hitler and Afghanistan as he addressed the Iraq crisis.

'Nightmare'

Mr Hoon argued the UK was being patient in its approach, as it had been after the 11 September attacks, and he said the international community would give Iraq an ultimatum.

Mr Hoon added: "Imagine a nightmare world in which the terrorists who caused such horror last year, or tyrants like Saddam Hussein, were free to act with impunity.

"Those who doubt whether we were right need to reflect on that nightmare".

This will be the first war about oil

Alice Mahon
Anti-war MP

But Labour delegates lined up to criticise the government's position on Iraq.

Halifax MP Alice Mahon said US President George Bush was intent on going to war.

"I think it's a disgrace that our government appears to be the only one in the western world that appears ready to back him," said Ms Mahon.

'Shameful' stance

The MP said if there was a war it would not be about weapons of mass destruction.

"It will be the first war about oil," she said to cheers from delegates.

Eileen Sinclair, of Cunninghame South, said she was "ashamed" of Labour's foreign policy.

"The Iraqi people themselves with the pressure of the world behind them must depose Saddam Hussein - not us with bombs," she said.

But Brian Seymour-Smith, of Birmingham Northfield, said the government's stance should be backed and that Labour needed to show itself as "a party of realism and courage".

"Sanctions are clearly not working and containment is being flouted. It is time to act through the UN," said Mr Seymour-Smith.

Aid promise

Earlier, International Development Secretary Clare Short said the UK must "redouble efforts" to ensure Iraq follows UN resolutions.

Ms Short, who is said to be sceptical about military action against Iraq, said no one should welcome "drumbeat of war".

She continued: "We must therefore redouble our efforts to ensure that Iraq abides by UN resolutions and that this time its weapons of mass destruction are destroyed and removed."

She said that if Iraq met UN demands and sanctions were lifted, the UK was ready to mount a "strong and immediate" effort to aid Iraq.

Like other ministers, Ms Short also stressed the importance of renewing efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East.

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British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
"The best chance we have of resolving this crisis peacefully is by the toughest possible stand"

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See also:

30 Sep 02 | Politics
30 Sep 02 | Middle East

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