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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 12 March, 2003, 22:57 GMT
France veto 'could mean war'

By Andrew Marr
BBC political editor

French President Jacques Chirac
French President Jacques Chirac will veto any resolution
The consequences of France's decision to veto a second resolution under all circumstances are still reverberating around the world.

Asked by the BBC on Wednesday night whether such a resolution would even be put before the Security Council and voted on, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw dramatically changed tack.

He said: "I did not expect to see one permanent member of the United Nations saying whatever the circumstances that country would veto a second resolution."

For the first time, because of the threat of veto, he entertained the idea that it might not be tabled at all.

The reason is not hard to see.

Solemn moment

To go to war without further UN authorisation is perilous and very controversial.

But to do so after trying to get that resolution and failing to get it might be more so.

Some observers believe it would also be illegal.

Yet if Britain is really contemplating dropping the second resolution which has been central to Tony Blair's strategy for weeks, this is a solemn moment.

Tempers rising

Dropping the second resolution would be politically devastating to Mr Blair and he is still trying to get it.

But tensions and tempers are rising - the French veto hangs over everything.

Mr Blair said: "I hope that even now those countries that are saying they would use their veto no matter what the circumstances will reconsider and realise that by doing so they put at risk not just the disarmament of Saddam but actually the unity of the United Nations."

The prime minister is working frantically hard, privately seeing scores of MPs, working the phones, summoning the Tory leader to an emergency meeting on Thursday.

He has not given up, but he faces his waking nightmare - war with no second resolution, the one thing he has fought to avoid.

Public opinion

Starting military action without the resolution would make it far harder to hold the Labour Party together.

It would outrage a swathe of public opinion.

All those extra tests announced hours earlier would presumably fall.

So would promises of further delay.

It could therefore bring war even closer - within days.

Has France pressed the 'Go' button?




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