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British Diplomats Meet to Chart Foreign Policy for Coming Decade - 2003-01-06

Britain's Foreign Secretary has spelled out the dangers posed to the world by weapons of mass destruction at an extraordinary two day gathering of British ambassadors from around the world.

The focus of the unprecedented London diplomatic meeting, which is being attended by nearly all of Britain's ambassadors, is to chart British foreign policy priorities for the next decade.

Topping the list of concerns, according to Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is the threat of terrorism from groups like al-Qaida and the linkage of such organizations with certain states.

"The most likely sources of technology and know-how for such terrorist organizations are rogue regimes, which continue to flout the international obligations under international law not to develop nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. And that is why terrorism and rogue regimes are part of the same picture," Mr. Straw said.

As far as the situation in Iraq is concerned, Mr. Straw underlined the long-held British view that the actions of Saddam Hussein will ultimately determine whether military intervention is required. "Iraqi disarmament, whether it is achieved by peaceful means or by force is essential both for the world's capacity to deal with the threat presented by weapons of mass destruction and for the authority of the United Nations," he explained. Another trouble spot singled out by the Foreign Secretary is North Korea, whose weapons exports Mr. Straw said can have a destabilizing effect in other regions such as Africa and the Middle East. "I welcome the fact that the world is uniting to hold the North Korean regime to its legal commitments. Managing this threat will be a significant test for the international community," Mr. Straw said.

The foreign secretary said during the next decade the battle to prevent the spread of the world's most dangerous weapons will be as much about the disruption of supplies and intelligence sharing as it will be about the enforcement of the international legal framework already in place.