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21 Jan 2003 : Column 167continued
The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): With permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a statement on yesterday's ministerial meeting of the United Nations Security Council, which was called to discuss the international community's response to global terrorism. I have placed a copy of my speech to the Security Council in the Library of the House. After the formal meeting, Security Council members discussed Iraq and North Korea in informal session.
The focus of the Council's meeting was the work of its counter-terrorism committee, which was established by United Nations Security Council resolution 1373. This resolution was passed in the wake of the 11 September atrocity, and for the first time imposed a legal obligation on all countries to end safe havens for terrorists, and to stop terrorist financing. The committee has been chaired by our own ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who yesterday received many tributes for his work. I know that the House will want to endorse those tributes, which were fully deserved.
Under the committee's programme, each country's progress in countering terrorism is actively being scrutinised. Where necessary, the committee is helping countries to improve their capacity to deal with terrorism. As we heard yesterday in New York, the vast majority of Governments, about 180, are complying with the new obligations on them. However, twothose of Liberia and, for very separate reasons, of East Timorhave failed to respond at all, and 13 are months behind. Therefore a deadline of 31 March was set yesterday for compliance.
Yesterday's meeting then discussed and unanimously agreed a new resolution on terrorism. Its key elements include the adoption of new measures to improve and to reinforce the work of the counter-terrorism committee; a recognition that the fight against terrorism has to be linked to international action against the proliferation of conventional arms and of weapons of mass destruction; and our agreement that our struggle against terrorism is not biased against any religionincluding Islam. People of all faiths and of all cultures have been the innocent victims of terrorist attacks, and people of every faith have a common interest in countering the global threat.
In adopting the resolution, the Security Council recognised the dangerous connection between the terrorists who respect no rules, and the rogue states that know no rules either. It is the leaders of such rogue states who set a deadly example, andthrough their illegal programmes to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weaponsprovide a tempting arsenal for terrorists.
Eight years ago, the world woke up to the nexus between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction when a sarin gas attack inflicted thousands of casualties in Tokyo. Since then, there has been abundant evidence that the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation is trying to acquire and to develop substances that are just as lethal, if not more so. There can be no doubt at all that al-Qaeda would use such weapons of mass destructionnerve gases, viruses and even nuclear weaponsif it could lay its hands on them.
There are some who argue that the issue of proliferation is an unwelcome distraction from the campaign against terrorism. This view is profoundly misplaced, however. The global trade in weapons of mass destruction technologies has never been more dangerous. North Korean missile exports undermine security in the middle east. Illegal Iraqi imports of weapons-related technology flout United Nations sanctions, and are re-arming a regime that has previously shown no restraint in using mustard gas and nerve agent to murder thousands of its own people. It would therefore be wildly irresponsible to assume that we can turn a blind eye to this trade on the presumption that lethal materials will not ultimately fall into the hands of terrorists. In today's climate, no responsible Government could take such a risk with their citizens' lives.
The two greatest threats facing Britain and its citizens in the next decade are terrorists and rogue states with weapons of mass destruction. The most dangerous terrorist organisation is al-Qaeda. The most aggressive rogue state is Iraq. Since the adoption of United Nations Security Council resolution 1441 last November, the choice for the Iraqi regime has been clear: resolve the 12-year stand-off with the UN peacefully through full co-operation with weapons inspectors, or face disarmament by force. Typically, Saddam Hussein's response so far has been characterised much more by deceit and delay than by any interest in a peaceful outcome.
The initial Iraqi declaration of WMD holdings submitted to the UN on 7 December contained stark omissions, not least the failure to explain what has happened to the large quantities of chemical and biological weapons matériel unaccounted for by UN inspectors in 1998 and set out in a report of more than 200 pages to the UN by the UNSCOM inspectorsthe previous inspectorsin February 1999.
Last week UN inspectors discovered 12 chemical warheads, and a large quantity of hidden documents relating to a possible nuclear weapons programme, which were found within the area of a private house. Neither of these finds had been declared. Dr. Hans Blix and Dr. Mohamed el-Baradei used their visit to Baghdad last weekend to set out their concerns to the Iraqi regime about the lack of Iraqi co-operation, and to remind the regime of the "serious consequences" of failure to abide by the terms of Security Council resolution 1441.
On Monday next, 27 January, Dr. Blix and Dr. el-Baradei will submit their progress reports on the inspection processes to the Security Council. I plainly cannot anticipate those reports, but two things are clear: first, the international community must maintain the pressure on Saddam Hussein to end his games of hide and seek. Secondly, Iraq must comply fully, actively and positively with all its international obligations. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence reminded the House yesterday in announcing further troop deployments to the Gulf, the lesson of the past four months is that diplomatic pressure will have no effect without the visible and credible threat of force.
The terrorist threat to Britain and our citizens is real. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is co-ordinating the most comprehensive security response our country has seen for many years. Our country can
For too long, Iraq has flouted international legal obligations to disarm, and has laughed in the face of the United Nations. Saddam still has a choice to comply and I hope very much that he does so. If he does not, those who are serious about a commitment to a global community based on the rule of law and the United Nations cannot afford to shrink from the challenge posed by Iraq.
We are now moving inexorably, whether by diplomacy, force or voluntary exile, towards the end game in Iraq, in which the central issue of weapons of mass destruction will be resolved. We firmly continue to support the objective of eliminating Saddam Hussein's evil armoury and his arms development programmes.
Since last September I have consistently pressed a number of requirements in pursuance of that objective: the need to pursue the United Nations route; the need to be totally transparent and clear with the British people as to what the options for future action are, and why; the need to concentrate on the elimination of weapons of mass destruction as the key objective; the need to have a clear and comprehensive plan for the future of Iraq; and the need for substantial humanitarian support for the suffering people of Iraq.
On the United Nations route, does the right hon. Gentleman consider that there is now a prima facie case that Iraq is in material breach of resolution 1441, under paragraph 4? In his view, does last week's proven failure to disclose warhead casings and documents, followed by further continuing failure to comply with this and other resolutions, amount to a material breach?
I heard the Foreign Secretary recorded as saying in New York that his patience with Saddam Hussein was running out, and that he was not impressed by Iraq's recent actions. In terms of resolution 1441 and the forthcoming report by the inspectors, what does that mean? Presumably, it is that he believes that Saddam Hussein is continuing to fail to comply, thus establishing material breach.
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise, however, how much work still needs to be done to persuade the British people that Britain's interests and the safety of British citizens will be at risk if action is not taken to eliminate these weapons of mass destruction? It is simply not enough to talk in vague terms about the general relationship of terrorism with rogue states. If, as the Prime Minister implied last Monday, intelligence
Will the Foreign Secretary accept from me that we will support action to protect and defend British interests, and so will the British people, but that we could not support going to war just because another country asks us to?
I realise the risk of compromising intelligence sources, but if these dangers are as substantial as the Prime Minister hinted, surely a formula could be found to inform the British public of their nature and imminence? Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is nothing more dangerous in these circumstances than obfuscation or mixed messages? Can he drum that latter point into his divided Cabinet colleagues? Is there not now a compelling case for a further debate in this House in Government time? [Hon. Members: "And a vote."]
What plans are there for a post-Saddam Iraq, brought about by either his leaving or his defeat? Is there a comprehensive plan that would help to create representative government, which would maintain the integrity of the state of Iraq and fully comply with all the various resolutions, especially in relation to weapons of mass destruction? What is being done to create the environment for a prosperous and democratic Iraq in the future?
What plans have the government made to ensure swift and adequate humanitarian aid to the suffering people of Iraq once the weapons problem has been resolved? Have any estimates of the aid required been made? Are, for instance, vaccines being stockpiled in surrounding countries? And why is the International Development Secretary so reluctant to come to Parliament to discuss these issues? When shall we have a statement from her?