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Iraq Standoff Entering Final Phase, Says Britain's Foreign Secretary

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says the standoff over disarming Iraq has entered its final phase. Mr. Straw's comments came during a speech in London, in which he again made his government's case for military action against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Mr. Straw says there are already mountains of evidence confirming Saddam Hussein has not yet disarmed. Speaking at London's Royal Institute for International Affairs, the foreign secretary argued that, if the international community, despite all this evidence, fails to keep the pressure on the Iraqi leader, it will prove to him - and others - that defiance pays off. "If we took away the military pressure, there would be no cooperation from Saddam; there would be no inspections whatsoever," he said. "The tyranny of Saddam on his own people, the killings and the torture of his people would go on. The intimidation of his neighbors would continue, and we would have shown dictators everywhere that defiance pays."

Mr. Straw said the United Nations has waited 12 years for Iraq to comply with Security Council resolutions demanding its disarmament - a task, he added, that should have been accomplished in 12 weeks time.

Britain and the United States say they will present a second U.N. resolution next week declaring Iraq in material breach of (disarmament) Resolution 1441, approved in November, thus paving the way for military action.

Mr. Straw told his audience, the U.N. risks becoming a footnote in history, unless it is willing to carry out its own decisions. He also recalled the plight of people living under Saddam Hussein's rule. "As the United Nations considers the case for enforcement of its own resolutions, the fate of the Iraqi people must loom large in our calculations," said Mr. Straw. "If it comes to military conflict, there will be victims. War is terrible, but there are circumstances in which the consequences of not going to war are more terrible still. There will be victims too, if our weakness emboldens a regime, which has killed hundreds of thousands. And conversely, by disarming Iraq, we will either fundamentally change the character of the regime, or, if the military intervention proves necessary, then change the regime itself."

The British foreign secretary's speech comes one day after U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced that U.S. forces are ready to take action against Iraq, if President Bush orders an attack.