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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 17:16 GMT
UK keeps up pressure on Iraq
Royal Irish Regiment at RAF Lyneham, Wiltshire
The Royal Irish Regiment practises air landing
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said the onus has shifted onto Iraq to prove that it does not have any weapons of mass destruction.

Mr Straw was speaking in Washington at a joint news conference with his US counterpart, Colin Powell.

Both men said they would await the result of next week's key report to the UN Security Council by chief inspector Hans Blix - and subsequent discussions - before deciding what to do next.

There is considerable anxiety in the forces that the government might be asking them to do something which lacks public support

Doug Henderson
Former Defence Minister
Mr Powell said the US had not decided to request another resolution - and Mr Straw joined in, saying the credibility of the UN was at stake if the Security Council did not act.

But as the two close allies kept up their tough stance on Iraq, other key members of the Security Council continued to voice opposition to an American-led war.

China said it was "worried and uneasy" about the large-scale military build-up in the Gulf.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman said their position was close to that of the French Government, which together with Germany is calling for everything possible be done to avoid conflict.

Meanwhile Russian President Vladimir Putin has told President George W Bush that the inspectors' report - due on 27 January - should be the key to deciding future actions on Iraq.

Stormy debate

Mr Straw's trip to Washington comes after the level of anxiety in Parliament about possible military action in Iraq was underlined as Labour rebels forced a symbolic anti-war vote.

On Wednesday night, 53 MPs, 41 of them Labour, used a procedural vote to register their disquiet about a possible war after a stormy defence debate in Westminster.

Mr Straw dismissed Wednesday's statements by Germany and France opposing military action against Saddam Hussein.

UK troops in the Gulf
Royal Navy Task Group has set sail
Personnel include Royal Marines from 3 Commando Brigade
Headquarters 1 (UK) Armoured Division
Support from the Desert Rats
16 Air Assault Brigade
102 Logistics Brigade
120 Challenger tanks
150 Warrior armoured personnel carriers
He said there had been similar differences when the US and UK first submitted Resolution 1441 - which was approved unanimously last September and which included the threat of using force.

Mr Powell said he would not rule out launching a war - and it did not have to be a unilateral US move as many nations had expressed an interest to joint "a coalition of the willing".

The UK foreign secretary said allowing inspectors to move freely was not compliance - accounting for missing weapons material was.

'Cowardice' claim

It has also emerged that Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, the Chief of Defence Staff and head of Britain's armed forces, is to visit Turkey on Thursday.

That visit is apparently an attempt to increase pressure on Ankara to allow its military bases to be used in any war on Iraq.

Anti-war protestor
Anti-war protestors are continuing their opposition
That will increase the worries of the anti-war Labour MPs, who produced a barrage of criticism against Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon in Wednesday's Commons debate.

Halifax MP Alice Mahon accused the government of "dishonesty and cowardice", claiming Tony Blair had already pledged support for US-led military action.

Her fears were echoed by former Armed Forces Minister Doug Henderson, who urged ministers to listen to the public, get back to containing Iraq or stick with the United Nations.

Mr Henderson pointed to "considerable anxiety among the chiefs in the forces and among the rank and file that the government might be asking them to do something which lacks the support of the public in this country".

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Matt Frei
"The coalition looks weaker than ever"
  Tory MP Kenneth Clarke speaking on Question Time
"I'm not persuaded that there's sufficient cause for going to war"

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See also:

23 Jan 03 | Middle East
22 Jan 03 | Politics
23 Jan 03 | Americas
21 Jan 03 | Politics
21 Jan 03 | Middle East
21 Jan 03 | Politics
22 Jan 03 | Europe
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