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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 20:46 GMT
Straw to brief MPs on Iraq
Jack Straw in the Balkans
Jack Straw has met British soldiers in Kosovo
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is cutting short a trip to the Balkans to update MPs as talks on the United Nations reached a critical stage.

A draft resolution about getting weapons inspectors back into Iraq was put before the UN Security Council on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said the resolution would stress the need for the "complete and total disarmament" of Iraq's alleged chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

"If not, action will follow," Mr Blair told MPs. "But it is not conflict that is inevitable. It is the disarmament of these weapons of mass destruction that is inevitable."

'Avoiding past problems'

The prime minister had spoken to US President George Bush just before giving the House of Commons the news.

"I very much hope that the resolution is passed and has support," said Mr Blair.

"It will be a tough new inspection regime. It will be free from the problems of the past.


There should be no hair-trigger for military action able to be pulled by an individual state that chooses

Menzies Campbell
Liberal Democrat
"It will make it very, very clear that there must be the complete disarmament of Iraq - of weapons of mass destruction, chemical, biological and nuclear weapons."

Mr Blair argued the surest way to avoid war was for Iraq to readmit weapons inspectors and start disarming.

Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith echoed those sentiments.

"Can I join you in welcoming any such resolution that will deliver peace in that region and the full disarmament of Iraq," said Mr Duncan Smith.

Doubts

Later, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell voiced caution.

"Any decision to take military action in the name of the UN is a matter of utmost seriousness and can only be taken by the UN as a whole," said Mr Campbell.

"There should be no hair-trigger for military action able to be pulled by an individual state that chooses."

The United Nations
Intensive talks continue at the United Nations

On Thursday, MPs will be given more details of progress made on the resolution behind closed doors in New York.

Mr Straw is returning to the UK from the Balkans and is due to make a statement in Parliament either in the late morning or early afternoon.

The foreign secretary has said the UK will stick to international law but is ready to back American-led military action in Iraq if the UN fails to act.

US officials are signalling a deal has been reached with France to end the deadlock in the Iraq crisis talks.

French ministers have wanted a second resolution to be passed before UN-backed military action can be used against Iraq - a demand refused by the US.

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said progress had been made on France's key demands but did not say whether he was satisfied with the text.

Military action splits

Russia - which has been a close ally of France on the Iraq issue - said changes had been made which took account of many of the objections to the first two drafts.

But Russian news agencies quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov saying differences continued and it was "vital that the new resolution contain no automatic mechanism for using force".

The latest, third, draft resolution offers Iraq a "final opportunity" to show it is complying with its disarmament obligations.

The five permanent members of the Security Council - the US, the UK, France, China and Russia - may veto a resolution.

But support is needed from the other members to get the nine votes necessary to adopt a resolution.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's David Bamford
"In no way does it say that the americans must obtain Security Council approval before military action takes place"

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