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Britain: Showdown with Iraq Should Focus on Destroying Weapons of Mass Destruction - 2002-09-13

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says the showdown with Iraq must not be focused on toppling Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, but on destroying his weapons of mass destruction. Mr. Straw spoke as the British military gears up for a possible confrontation with Iraq.

Foreign Secretary Straw says the U.N. Security Council faces a major test in enforcing weapons inspections in Iraq, as he explained Friday on British radio.

"The only way to get those weapons inspectors back into Iraq and to ensure that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction is by the complete and united resolve of the United Nations, led by the Security Council and the clarity that if the weapons inspectors are not allowed back, then the will of the United Nations has to be enforced by other means, which inevitably mean military action," he said.

Mr. Straw says British policy is aimed at dismantling of Iraq's arsenal of mass destruction weapons, not the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, which is a stated goal of President Bush.

"You may get regime change as a consequence of military action," he said. "You may get regime change as the only way of enforcing the will of the United Nations, but the focus has to be on these weapons of mass destruction."

The foreign secretary spoke as the British defense ministry prepares for its biggest logistics operation in years.

Defense sources say that, beginning Sunday, about six-thousand men from the Royal Logistics Corps will begin moving tons of food, ammunition and medical supplies, along with 1,000 vehicles, to the main military port near Southampton, on the southern coast of England.

Officials say the four-week exercise was planned before the current crisis with Iraq, but the supplies will end up at the right location for shipment to the Persian Gulf, if that becomes necessary.

Amid the diplomatic and military activity, the government is preparing for an emergency session of parliament on the Iraq crisis on September 24. On the same day, Prime Minister Tony Blair will publish a dossier on Iraq's alleged weapons buildup to support his argument that Saddam Hussein must be confronted.

A significant number of British lawmakers are expressing skepticism about the need for a potential war with Iraq. A survey in Friday's edition of The Times newspaper says two-thirds of lawmakers from the opposition Conservative party have reservations about a war. Earlier polls have found similar concern among members of parliament from Mr. Blair's Labor party.