Accessibility links

War With Iraq 'Not Inevitable' Says Britain - 2002-09-12

Senior British officials say it is too early to talk about going to war with Iraq while efforts are focused on getting United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country.

British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon has been consulting senior American officials this week in the United States and he says war with Iraq is not inevitable.

Mr. Hoon told British radio Thursday there have been no decisions in either Britain or the United States about what he termed "specific military commitments regarding Iraq."

He said Britain wants a U.N. resolution giving Iraq a deadline to disarm.

"A U.N. process as well as a clear ultimatum with a sting in it's tail as far as prospective military operations is concerned is part of making it clear to Iraq just how seriously we view this situation," he said.

Mr. Hoon spoke as Prime Minister Tony Blair prepared to meet senior opposition politicians to discuss plans for an emergency debate in parliament on the Iraq crisis during the week of September 23.

Mr. Blair supports President Bush's tough line on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, but polls show most Briton's oppose a war with Iraq unless it is sanctioned by the United Nations.

The leader of the lower house of parliament is Robin Cook and he has been consulting with Mr. Blair on the upcoming debate.

Mr. Cook told British radio a war with Iraq is neither imminent nor inevitable. He says the U.N. will, and must, be involved.

"The focus of British efforts at the present time is to try and make progress through the United Nations," he said. " And it is in everybody's interest that the United Nations route is a success and we do get the weapons inspectors back and we are able to contain Saddam's ambitions to develop weapons of mass destruction with full international support."

Mr. Cook says that if Iraq does not comply, he would expect parliament to vote before approving British military action there, just as it did in 1991 and 1998.