Monday, March 10, 2003
Reading from a different hymn book - 10th March 2003, 21.02

In Jack Straw's statement to the House of Commons today, one caught hints of the desperation and the dilemmas that the Blair administration find themselves in, pressured by the rebellious Labour party, a timetable for war and opposition from the other great powers on the Security Council.

One can chart the course of compromise that they are trying to foster as a last attempt to avoid war or to create the perception that they have attempted to do so. Thus, Straw agreed with El Baradei that no existence of a nuclear programme had been found so far.

On the one hand, the need for Iraqi disarmament is justified because of the existence of weapons of mass destruction and Straw cited Blix's latest report to that effect. However, in a move away from the strict timetable to war, Straw has raised the possibility of Iraq meeting certain conditions on a 'roadmap to disarmament'.

The government has made plain all along its desire to secure a peaceful outcome to this crisis. It's for this reason that I took the initiative in the Security Council last Friday to circulate a revised version of the UK/US/Spain draft second Resolution. This specifies a further period beyond the adoption of the Resolution for Iraq to take the final opportunity to disarm. Negotiations on its detail have continued over the weekend. We are examining whether a list of defined tests for Iraqi compliance would be useful in helping the Council to come to a judgement.

Moreover, their need to retain support from the Labour party, leads to a linkage between the Iraqi crisis and Israel, citing the meeting on the 14th January (to which Israel was not invited) as Great Britain's contribution to the Palestinian peace process.

Mr Speaker,
As this crisis enters this phase, there are fears that in securing Iraq's compliance with international law we may exacerbate tensions across the region. Emotions are inflamed by the situation in Israel and the Occupied Territories where, tragically, there seems to be no end to the spiral of killings. Since September 2000, over 2300 Palestinians have been killed and over 700 Israelis. We mourn the loss of life on all sides. But we cannot allow the cycle of violence to destroy hope for a better future. There are some grounds for optimism. The international community today shares our vision of a lasting settlement, as set out in a series of SCRs: a viable Palestinian state based on the 1967 boundaries; and an Israeli state free from terror, recognised by the Arab world.

This linkage between the two Middle Eastern crises and the call for a UN role in the possible reconstruction of post-war Iraq, demonstrate real differences between the United States and United Kingdom in their views on the how the Middle East should be reshaped after a possible war. These views will probably be reconciled once war is underway, but they are a timely reminder that the United Kingdom is not a supporter of the neo-conservative agenda in Washington.


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