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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 September, 2004, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Foreign Office Iraq statement in full
The Foreign Office has issued a statement in response to claims that Tony Blair was warned about the possible consequences of removing Saddam Hussein from power a year before coalition forces invaded Iraq.

The Daily Telegraph said Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the prime minister in a letter that no-one could say for sure that regime change in Iraq would bring any improvement, as the country had no history of a democratic tradition.

Here is the statement in full;

It should be no surprise that two-and-a-half years ago the government was thinking in great detail about Iraq.

It would have been irresponsible if such a serious issue had not been the subject of very thorough consideration.

There was no decision at that stage.

The key outcome of the diplomatic engagement of the US and UK in mid-2002 was the commitment to seek a further resolution in the United Nations and the achievement of that further resolution on 8 November 2002.

The security situation in Iraq is serious, but the country is on the path to a democratically elected government
Foreign Office

That resolution provided a peaceful path for Saddam Hussein out of the crisis by full and complete inspections.

That never happened and the failure of Saddam to meet his obligations under Resolution 1441 - and many previous Security Council resolutions - was at the heart of the Commons decision regarding military action on 18 March 2003.

The security situation in Iraq is serious, but the country is on the path to a democratically elected government on a timescale agreed by the whole of the international community.

We are determined it should succeed.

There were indeed anxieties that, after Saddam, one dictator might be replaced by another.

Not only has that not happened, but for the first time Iraq is moving towards a democratic future.

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