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Last Updated:  Monday, 17 March, 2003, 18:14 GMT
Cook resignation: The letters
Downing Street has released the letters exchanged by Robin Cook and Tony Blair as Mr Cook quit the cabinet on Monday.

Here are what they said.

Robin Cook's letter:

At cabinet for some weeks I have been frank about my concern over embarking on military action in the absence of multilateral support.

I applaud the heroic efforts that you and Jack (Straw) have put into the attempt to secure a second resolution at the UN.

It is not your fault that those attempts have failed. However, the evident importance that we attached to a second resolution makes it all the more difficult now to proceed without one, and without agreement in any other international forum.

As I cannot give my support to military action in these circumstances, I write with regret to resign.

You and I have both made the case over the years for an international order based on multilateral decisions through the UN and other forums.

In principle I believe it is wrong to embark on military action without broad international support.

In practice I believe it is against Britain's interests to create a precedent for unilateral military action.

As our foreign secretary I was impressed by the energy and skill with which you ended Britain's isolation in Europe and achieved for our country equal status and influence to Germany or France.

I am dismayed that once again Britain is divided from our major European neighbours.

As President of the Party of European Socialists, of which the Labour Party is a member, it troubles me that I know of no sister party within the European Union that shares our position.

I regret leaving my post as Leader of the House of Commons, in which I have had two fulfilling years modernising the procedures of a Parliament for which I have a deep affection.

I also am proud of the real achievement of your government.

Among those many achievements, I take particular satisfaction from our record on delivering devolution, investing in hospitals and tackling poverty among children.

All of these have only been made possible by your successful leadership and two record election victories which were your personal achievement.

You will continue to have my personal support as Leader of our party.

I am only too sorry that our differences on the present crisis mean that I can no longer continue to serve you in cabinet.

Yours sincerely, Robin.

Tony Blair's letter:

Dear Robin, Thank you for your letter confirming your wish to resign from the cabinet.

You were good enough to tell me some days ago that you would resign in the event of our failure to secure a new UNSCR (United Nations Security Council Resolution) that authorised military action.

You have been a good friend and colleague over many years, and I regret that you will not be part of the team that leads the country through this difficult and dangerous crisis.

Particularly when you were foreign secretary, we have worked together closely on a number of grave issues - Operation Desert Fox, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and many others - and I always valued your counsel and support.

You also secured notable diplomatic achievements such as agreement to an International Criminal Court and surrender of the Lockerbie suspects.

I want to thank you for the contribution you made in your two cabinet posts, and no doubt will continue to make, to forging better relations between Britain and the rest of the EU. When the current crisis is over, this will be particularly important.

I also want to thank you for the modernising energy you have brought to your position as leader of the House.

On your resignation, I have always tried to resolve this crisis through the UN, as you recognise in your letter.

But I was always clear that the UN must be the way of dealing with the issue, not avoiding dealing with it. The government is staying true to Resolution 1441.

Others, in the face of continuing Iraqi non-compliance, are walking away from it.

As I have said to you, the threatened French veto set back hugely the considerable progress we were making in building consensus among UNSC members.

I passionately believe that if the international community had stayed rock solid in its determination and unity around Resolution 1441, Saddam could finally have been disarmed without a shot being fired.

But, just as he has done for the past 12 years, he has divided the international community and used his dictatorship to exploit our democracies and weaken our will.

My will is as strong as ever, that he must be disarmed. Saddam has had twelve years to disarm, and many last chances and final opportunities.

The surprise now is not that action may take place but that the process has been strung out over so long, despite repeated Resolutions, and repeated judgments that Iraq is in material breach of them.

I want to thank you for the kind comments in your letter, and know that we will remain friends if no longer cabinet colleagues.

Yours ever, Tony

The BBC's Laura Trevelyan
"MPs like Lindsay Hoyle who abstained in the last vote now face a dilemma"

Cook quits on principle
17 Mar 03 |  Politics

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