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British Foreign Secretary Skeptical About Iraq's Veracity - 2002-12-11

Britain says it has not reached a conclusion about the massive document Iraq has given to the U.N. outlining its weapons programs, but Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says he is skeptical Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has told the truth.

Foreign Secretary Straw told a news conference in London Wednesday the British government is still plodding through the 12,000 page Iraqi declaration. "We're not going to be rushed to judgment," he said. "We want to resolve the Iraq crisis peacefully, through Iraq's compliance with the Security Council resolution, in which this government worked hard with partners to negotiate. But we are of course taking a skeptical approach to Iraq's response, given Saddam's record of mendacity."

Mr. Straw said he wants a full accounting of the 360 tons of chemical weapons and 30,000 special munitions to deliver them that Iraq possessed in 1998 when U.N. weapons inspectors left.

Mr. Straw also played down the controversy over the United States taking possession of the dossier, and then passing it on to the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

He said the arrangement had been agreed to on Sunday in a conference call among Security Council members.

On another matter, Mr. Straw said Britain is disturbed about the discovery of a shipment of Scud missiles in the Arabian Sea, apparently bound from North Korea to Yemen. "We're obviously profoundly concerned about this and what appears to have been a clear breach, further breach, by North Korea of undertakings which it has given," said Mr. Straw. "We're going to be seeking an urgent explanation from the Yemeni government of what they knew about the shipment and obviously we will be making our views clear to the North Koreans."

Mr. Straw said the seizure proves that the international community has been correct in putting pressure on North Korea to stop the spread of missile technology.