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Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 18:08 GMT
Keep nerve over Iraq, says Straw
John Howard and Tony Blair
The two leaders were in Downing Street for talks
Franco-German moves for more weapons inspectors would send a message to Saddam Hussein that "defiance pays", the UK foreign secretary has said.

In a statement to MPs, Jack Straw said the international community could make the world a "much more dangerous place" if it loses its nerve now in the Iraq crisis.

For the international community now to lose its nerve would make the world a much more dangerous place

Jack Straw
Foreign Secretary
He "hoped and prayed" for a peaceful resolution to the crisis, but argued that would only happen if "unrelenting pressure" was kept up against Iraq.

Earlier, Prime Minister Tony Blair said reports of a missile in Iraq with a range of 112 miles were "extremely serious".

The chief weapons inspectors will deliver their latest report to the UN Security Council on Friday.

Material breach

Mr Straw said Iraq was in further material breach of the latest UN resolution because it had failed to cooperate fully with the inspectors.

He labelled French and German calls for the inspections regime to be bolstered as "unrealistic and impractical".

"They shift the burden of proof from Iraq to the inspectors," he said.

Hans Blix, UN chief weapons inspector
Blix's report on Friday is seen as crucial
"And they sent the signal to Saddam Hussein that defiance pays."

Mr Straw said the pressure on Iraq had to be backed up by force, "rather than casting around for excuses to delay".

He added: "For the international community now to lose its nerve would significantly undermine the authority of the United Nations.

It would "make the world a much more dangerous place as dictators got the message that international law is mere words and nothing else".

German talks

There is a special European Union summit on Monday to try to heal rifts over Iraq policy.

Downing Street said Mr Blair had written to Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who is chairing the meeting.

He also spoke to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Number 10 said it was a "good conversation", with both men sharing objectives but having differences about how to achieve them.

Conservative foreign affairs spokesman Alan Duncan argued that the arguments of the last fortnight made it "touch and go" whether a second UN resolution authorising military force could be agreed.

But Lib Dem chairman Mark Oaten suggested that ignoring any vetoes of such a resolution could also undermine the security council's role.

'Futility'

Earlier, Mr Blair said it would be very serious if reports of an undeclared missile with a range of 112 miles were true.

"Any evidence that comes to light... is extremely important because it demonstrates the futility of giving them more time when its proof obviously they are not co-operating," he added.

But it later emerged Baghdad itself told weapons inspectors about the missile but insists any extra range is negligible.

Mr Howard said he agreed "completely" with Mr Blair's assessment of the significance of the missile find - Iraq is not allowed missiles with a range of more than 93 miles.

A peace protester in New York
Peace campaigners around the world are preparing for Saturday's protest

"If it is the case, then that's just further evidence of a long pattern of deceit and evasion and trickery," said Mr Howard.

Both leaders stressed their agreement not only over Iraq but over North Korea.

Mr Howard said both countries needed to be dealt with.

"I believe very strongly that one of the reasons North Korea has behaved as she has is that she's watched the disarray of the world dealing with Iraq," he said.

Disquiet

On Wednesday Mr Blair said he believed a second UN resolution was still possible, but reiterated that action against Saddam would be taken without one if it was necessary.

France could exercise its veto as could Russia and China.

But Mr Howard said: "If the security council fails this test it will have a crippling impact on its authority for years into the future."

A House of Commons motion on Thursday signed by MPs of all parties including former Labour ministers demands the right to vote on war.

They reject the notion promoted by the government that such a vote would remove the element of surprise in the event of an attack on Iraq.

Those calls come ahead of Saturday's anti-war protest in London, and other world cities.

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 ON THIS STORY
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
"For the UN to lose its nerve now would make the world a more dangerous place"

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12 Feb 03 | Middle East
12 Feb 03 | Politics
11 Feb 03 | Talking Point
12 Feb 03 | Business
13 Feb 03 | Politics
13 Feb 03 | Middle East
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