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Friday, 18 October, 2002, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
Straw gives UN Iraq warning
The UN Security Council
The Security Council will try to break the deadlock
The UK and America are prepared to take military action alone against Iraq if there is no new United Nations resolution on weapons inspections, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said.

Mr Straw's warning comes as the five permanent members of the UN Security Council - the UK, US, China, France and Russia - prepare to try to end weeks of wrangling on Friday.

Nine Labour anti-war rebel MPs on Friday launched a new demand for a Commons vote over Iraq as soon as possible.

The foreign secretary stressed the UK was "completely committed" to using the UN if that was successful.

But Britain and the US reserved the right to go it alone if military action was blocked and if Iraq was in "flagrant breach" of UN resolutions, he said.

Ending the wrangling

The US says it will soon table a draft resolution to the Security Council aimed at strengthening the weapons inspections regime.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said the resolution would make it clear Iraq had been "in violation" of UN resolutions for a long time.

And it would make clear there would have to be "consequences for continued violation", said Mr Powell.

Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary
Jack Straw is upping the pressure on the UN
Russia's Foreign Minister, Igor Ivanov, said he believed there were "favourable conditions" for the council to agree a resolution that quickly restarted weapons inspections.

France is seen as isolated among the key five council members as it continues to insist military action should only come after a second resolution is passed.

Options open

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Straw increased the pressure on the other council members to accept America's proposals.

"We reserve the right to act within international law in respect of the use of force which may or may not be covered by a new resolution," he said.

Glenda Jackson, Labour MP
Glenda Jackson is among those demanding an Iraq vote
"It is entirely appropriate for America, as for us, to reserve their position if the United Nations does not meet its responsibilities.

"We are completely committed to the United Nations route if that is successful.

"If, for example, we end up being vetoed on statements which are as plain as daylight that Iraq is in flagrant breach of United Nations resolutions, then of course we are in a different situation."

Weapons focus

Those comments are likely to increase criticism from those who say America is planning to attack Iraq regardless of what the UN decides.

UK ministers have stressed their prime objective is dealing with Iraq's alleged build-up of weapons of mass destruction.

They say they would be delighted to see Saddam Hussein's government toppled in Baghdad but, unlike some US figures, argue it should not be the aim of their policy.

Iraq's latest offer to readmit weapons inspectors has not proved enough to satisfy the US and UK governments.

Opposition continues

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy warned later that the UK and US would find it difficult to justify pre-emptive action against Iraq without UN authority because of the CIA's view on the threat posed.

"Before you can invoke the right to self-defence, the danger has to be immediate and acute," he said.

On Friday, nine Labour MPs began a parliamentary petition calling for a vote on the government's Iraq policy "at the earliest opportunity".

MPs were denied a vote on a substantive motion during last month's emergency debate on the crisis.

But more than 50 Labour rebels did register their opposition to possible military action in a procedural vote.

Former ministers Glenda Jackson and Tony Banks are among those who have so far signed the new vote demand.

The petition was tabled by Labour's Helen Clark, who said the public had a right to expect their MP to be able to take a public stance on such a vital issue.

Ministers have said there will be a vote if there is military action against Iraq, but have refused to be drawn on the timing for that vote.

The BBC's Peter Biles
"The Security Council still has to decide on a course of action"
John Negroponte, US Ambassador to the UN
"We are considering the reactions we have received"
Dumisani Kumalo, UN Ambassador for South Africa
"It there is a chance for peace, we would rather take it"

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See also:

18 Oct 02 | Middle East
15 Oct 02 | Politics
15 Oct 02 | Politics
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