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Tuesday, 19 November, 2002, 10:31 GMT
CND legal threat over Iraq war
UN vehicle in Baghdad
UN weapons inspectors begin arriving in Baghdad
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) is threatening legal action against the UK government over the threat of war with Iraq.


The government can be sure that we will go to court unless they give us the written assurance we seek

Carol Naughton
CND is demanding a written guarantee the UK will not invade Iraq without explicit United Nations backing.

It claims a UN resolution calling on Saddam Hussein to disarm or face "serious consequences" can not be used to justify an invasion.

The campaign has obtained a legal opinion from a top QC from human rights firm Matrix Chambers, of which Cherie Blair is a member, backing its stance.

'Illegal'

In a letter to prime minister Tony Blair and other senior ministers, Rabinder Singh QC argues the UK would be in breach of international law if it were to use force against Iraq without a further UN resolution.

CND chairwoman Carol Naughton said: "The government can be sure that we will go to court unless they give us the written assurance we seek."

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme she said: "We have a very strong opinion from Matrix chambers, from Rabinder Singh, which says it would be illegal to war without going back to the United Nations Security Council and that is what we will be putting to the government.

"We know quite clearly that the United States will do anything to try and manufacture some sort of reason to go to war."

Nuclear weapons

But, she added, the current UN resolution did not authorise the use of force.

Carol Naughton
Carol Naughton: CND will go to court
And it was "quite clear" that any breach of the resolution would have to go back to the Security Council.

She added: "The line of thinking that Bush and Blair are using is that if any nation breaches any UN resolution then you immediately go to war with them.

"Where does that leave all the nuclear weapons states, the UK included, currently in breach of the UN treaty on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons?"

Air strikes

The UK was at the forefront of efforts to hammer out a new UN resolution demanding the disarmament of Iraq.

But Tony Blair has refused to rule out joining in with unilateral US military action, if Iraq commits a "material breach" of its terms.

Opponents of military action claim resolution 1441 does not contain a specific "trigger" for armed force.

Phil Shiner, of Public Interest Lawyers said: "Even if eventually the Security Council issues a clearly worded authorisation there will be strict limits on what force would be lawful.

"Armed force to bring about a "regime change" or high level air strikes would be unlawful."

Regime change

Legal action in a British court could not prevent US-led military action in Iraq.

The US is also unlikely to recognise the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

But court action by CND has the potential to cause embarrassment to the UK government, which already has concerns about the legality of enforced "regime change".

CND has repeatedly warned of the dangers of a war in Iraq escalating into a nuclear conflict.

Its concern was heightened by comments earlier this year by defence secretary Geoff Hoon, who said the UK would be prepared to use nuclear weapons in retaliation against a chemical or biological attack.


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