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Tuesday, 5 November, 2002, 10:23 GMT
Straw retains UN hope on Iraq
UN Security Council in session
The UN Security Council is divided over the use of force
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said war with Iraq can still be averted - as the next Archbishop of Canterbury warned of any conflict escalating to a nuclear one.

Mr Straw said he hoped Saddam Hussein would meet UN demands, but if not the US and UK "maintain" their "options... to deal effectively" with the Iraqi dictator.


We have to maintain our options if ... the UN fails to meet its responsibilities

Jack Straw
His comments came as the next Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, said hundreds of thousands of lives in the region could be at risk if the West launched a pre-emptive strike against Saddam Hussein.

The Iraqi president has said he will consider a new UN Security Council resolution, as long as it does not serve as an excuse for US military action.

'End the defiance'

It is the first time he has commented since the United Nations Security Council began discussing a new resolution several weeks ago.

The United States has said it expects to submit a new draft resolution to the Security Council this week but says it will not be "handcuffed" if the UN decides not to act against Baghdad.

Mr Straw says he has been working "extremely closely" with US Secretary of State Colin Powell in "robust, line by line negotiations" with France, Russia and China and members of the Security Council to agree a resolution requiring Saddam and his regime "to end their defiance of the UN".

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
'Military action is not about to take place', says Mr Straw
"If we get that resolution, if it's properly supported, it sets out a clear sequence of obligations upon Saddam Hussein and he then follows those and complies with the obligations which I hope will be imposed, that frankly, will be the end of the matter," said Mr Straw.

The foreign secretary insisted that "military action is not about to take place".

"Instead, what we are working for is for the UN, literally, to lay down the law and for there then to be compliancy with it," he said.

There had been movement "in words" by the Iraqi regime with Saddam saying "we might comply with the resolution", a position he had denied four days earlier.

"It has only happened because we are backing diplomacy with the threat of force, justified and spelt out in the UN charter," Mr Straw told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

'Options are open'

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had said "sometimes sensitive diplomacy has to be backed to be effective by the threat of force".

While the UK will always "act within our obligations in international law", Mr Straw stressed: "We have to maintain our options if in the event, which I do not think will happen, the UN fails to meet its responsibilities today to deal effectively with the defiance by Saddam Hussein of international law."

The foreign secretary, who flies to the Balkans on Tuesday, says that it was only as a result of military action taken in Kosovo that the region has the prospect of "relative peace".

Dr Rowan Williams, the next Archbishop of Canterbury
Attacking Iraq could 'rapidly and uncontrollably spiral down into chaos', Dr Williams says
Earlier this week, Saddam Hussein told visiting Austrian far-right politician Joerg Haider: "If a resolution is issued which respects the UN charter, international law and Iraq's sovereignty, security and independence, and does not provide a cover for America's ill intentions, we will view it in a way that makes us deal with it."

However, the Iraqi president reiterated his position that there was "no need" for the Security Council to adopt a new resolution, adding that Iraq remained determined to defend itself should the US and its allies attack.

Attack fears

Iraq has previously said it would allow UN weapons inspectors to return under the terms of existing resolutions.

The draft resolution is expected to resolve French and Russian fears that the US and UK would be given an automatic right to launch an attack if they decided that Iraq had not complied with tough new conditions.

Both countries would prefer two separate solutions, with the second authorising military action if the first resolution regarding weapons inspections is disregarded by Iraq.


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See also:

04 Nov 02 | Middle East
01 Nov 02 | Americas
03 Nov 02 | In Depth
03 Nov 02 | Middle East
01 Nov 02 | Americas
01 Nov 02 | Breakfast
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