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Blair's statement to MPs on Iraq

Blair: We have no quarrel with the Iraqi people
Blair: We have no quarrel with the Iraqi people

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LONDON, England -- The UK Government has published a dossier of evidence it says shows Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is amassing weapons of mass destruction. Following its publication, British Prime Minister Tony Blair made a statement to an emergency session of the House of Commons about the dossier. (Story) This is his statement in full:

Today we published a 50-page dossier detailing the history of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programme, its breach of U.N. resolutions and current attempts to rebuild that illegal programme.

At the end of the Gulf War the full extent of Saddam's chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programmes became clear. As a result the United Nations passed a series of resolutions demanding Iraq disarm itself of such weapons and establishing a regime of weapons inspections and monitoring to do the task.

They were to be given unconditional and unrestricted access to all and any Iraqi sites. All this is accepted fact. In addition, if is fact, documented by U.N. inspectors, that Iraq almost immediately began to obstruct the inspections. Visits were delayed, on occasions inspectors threatened, material was moved, special sites -- shut to the inspectors -- were unilaterally designated by Iraq.

The work of the inspectors continued but against the background of increasing obstruction and non-compliance. Indeed, Iraq denied its biological weapons programme existed until forced to acknowledge it after high-ranking defectors disclosed its existence in 1995.

Eventually, in 1997, the U.N. inspectors declared that they were unable to fulfil their task. A year of negotiation and further obstruction occurred until, finally, in late 1998, the U.N. team were forced to withdraw.

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As the dossier sets out, we estimate on the basis of the U.N.'s work that there were up to 360 tonnes of bulk chemical warfare agents, up to 3,000 tonnes of precursor chemicals, growth media sufficient to produce 26,000 litres of anthrax spores and over 30,000 special munitions for delivery of chemical and biological agents.

All of this was missing and unaccounted for.

Military action by the U.S. and UK followed and a certain amount of infrastructure for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and missile capability was destroyed, setting the Iraqi programme back, not ending it.

From late 1998 onwards, therefore, the sole inhibition on Saddam's WMD programme was the sanctions regime. Iraq was forbidden to use the revenue from its oil, except for certain specified, non-military purposes. The sanctions regime, however, was also subject to illegal trading and abuse. Because of concerns of its inadequacy and the impact on the Iraqi people, we made several attempts to refine it culminating in a new U.N. resolution in May of this year. But it was only partially effective.

Around $3 billion is taken illegally by Saddam every year now, double the figure for 2000. Self-evidently, there is no proper accounting for this money. Because of concerns that a containment policy based on sanctions alone could not sufficiently inhibit Saddam's weapons programme, negotiations continued even after 1998 to gain re-admission for the U.N. inspectors. In 1999, a new U.N. resolution demanding their re-entry was passed and ignored. Further negotiations continued. Finally, after several months of discussion with Saddam's regime this year, Kofi Annan, the U.N.'s Secretary General, concluded that Saddam was not serious about re-admitting the inspectors and ended the negotiations. That was in July this year.

All of this is established fact. I set out the history in some detail because occasionally debate on this issue seems to treat it almost as if it had suddenly arisen, coming out of nowhere or on a whim in the last few months of 2002.

It is actually an 11 year history. A history of U.N. will flouted, lies told by Saddam about the existence of his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programmes, obstruction, defiance, and denial. There is one common consistent theme, however -- the total determination of Saddam to maintain that programme; to risk war, international ostracism, sanctions, the isolation of the Iraqi economy in order to keep it.

At any time he could have let the inspectors back in and cooperated with the United Nations. Ten days ago he made the offer unconditionally under threat of war. He could have done it at any time in the last 11 years, but he didn't. Why?

The dossier we published gives the answer. The reason is because his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programme is not an historic left-over from 1998. The inspectors aren't needed to clean up the old remains. His weapons of mass destruction programme is active, detailed and growing. The policy of containment is not working. The weapons of mass destruction programme is not shut down. It is up and running now.

This dossier is based on the work of the British Joint Intelligence Committee. For over 60 years, beginning just prior to World War II, the JIC has provided intelligence assessments to British Prime Ministers. Normally its work is secret. Unusually, because it is important we explain our concerns over Saddam to the British people, we have decided to disclose these assessments. I am aware, of course, that people are going to have to take elements of this on the good faith of our intelligence services.

But this is what they are telling me, the British Prime Minister and my senior colleagues. The intelligence picture they paint is one accumulated over the last four years. It is extensive, detailed and authoritative.

It concludes that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons, that Saddam has continued to produce them, that he has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes, including against his own Shia population; and that he is actively trying to acquire nuclear weapons capability.

On chemical weapons, the dossier shows that Iraq continues to produce chemical agent for chemical weapons; has rebuilt previously destroyed production plants across Iraq; has bought dual-use chemical facilities; has retained the key personnel formerly engaged in the chemical weapons programme; and has a serious ongoing research programme into weapons production, all of it well funded.

In respect of biological weapons, again production of biological agents has continued; facilities formerly used for biological weapons have been rebuilt; equipment has been purchased for such a programme; and again Saddam has retained the personnel who worked on it, prior to 1991.

In particular, the U.N. inspection regime discovered that Iraq was trying to acquire mobile biological weapons facilities which, of course, are easier to conceal. Present intelligence confirms they have now got such facilities. The biological agents we believe Iraq can produce include anthrax, botulinum, toxin, aflatoxin and ricin. All eventually result in excruciatingly painful death.

As for nuclear weapons, Saddam's previous nuclear weapons programme was shut down by the inspectors, following disclosure by defectors of the full, but hidden, nature of it. That programme was based on gas centrifuge uranium enrichment. The known remaining stocks of uranium are now held under supervision by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

But, we now know the following. Since the departure of the inspectors in 1998, Saddam has bought or attempted to buy specialised vacuum pumps of the design needed for the gas centrifuge cascade to enrich uranium, an entire magnet production line of the specification for use in the motors and top bearings of gas centrifuges, dual-use products such as Anhydrous Hydrogen Fluoride and fluoride gas, which can be used both in petrochemicals but also in gas centrifuge cascades, a filament winding machine, which can be used to manufacture carbon fibre gas centrifuge rotors, and has attempted, covertly, to acquire 60,000 or more specialised aluminium tubes, which are subject to strict controls due to their potential use in the construction of gas centrifuges.

The Al-Sharqat Chemical Production facility in Iraq is seen in the 50-page British government report
The Al-Sharqat Chemical Production facility in Iraq is seen in the 50-page British government report

In addition, we know Saddam has been trying to buy significant quantities of uranium from Africa, though we do not know whether he has been successful. Again key personnel who used to work on the nuclear weapons programme are back in harness. Iraq may claim that this is for a civil nuclear power programme but I would point out is has no nuclear power plants. That is the position in respect of weapons. But, of course, the weapons require ballistic missile capability.

This is again subject to U.N. disarmament resolutions. Iraq is supposed only to have missile capability up to 150 km for conventional weaponry. It is clear both that a significant number of longer-range missiles were effectively concealed from the previous inspectors and remain, including up to 20 extended range Scud missiles, that in mid 2001, there was a step change in the programme, and by this year Iraq's development of weapons with a range over 1,000 kilometres was well underway, that hundreds of key people are employed on this programme, facilities are being built; and equipment procured, usually clandestinely.

Sanctions and import controls have hindered this programme but they've only slowed its progress. The capability being developed is for multi-purpose use, including with WMD warheads.

Now, that is the assessment to me from the joint intelligence committee. In addition, we have well-founded intelligence to tell us that Saddam sees his WMD programme as vital to his survival, as a demonstration of his power and his influence in the region.

There will be some who dismiss all this. Intelligence is not always right. For some of this material there may be innocent explanations. There will be others who say, rightly, that, for example, on present going, it could be several years before he acquires a usable nuclear weapon. Though, if he were able to purchase fissile materiel illegally, it would only be a year or two.

But let me put it at its simplest: on this 11 year history; with this man, Saddam; with this accumulated, detailed intelligence available; with what we know and what we can reasonably speculate: would the world be wise to leave the present situation undisturbed; to say, that despite 14 separate U.N. demands on this issue, all of which Saddam is in breach of, we should do nothing? To conclude that we should trust not to the good faith of the U.N. weapons inspectors but to the good faith of the current Iraqi regime? I do not believe that would be a responsible course to follow.

Our case is simply this: not that we take military action, come what may, but that the case for ensuring Iraqi disarmament, as the U.N. has stipulated, is overwhelming. I defy anyone on the basis of this evidence to say that it is an unreasonable demand for the international community to make when, after all, it is only the same demand that we have made for 11 years and he has rejected.

People say: but why Saddam? I don't in the least dispute there are other causes of concern on weapons of mass destruction. I said as much in this House on September 14 last year. But two things about Saddam stand out. He has used these weapons, in Iraq itself, thousands dying in chemical weapons attacks. He used them in the Iran-Iraq war, started by him, in which one million people died. And his is a regime with no moderate elements to appeal to. Read the chapter on Saddam and human rights in this dossier.

Read not just about the one million dead in the war with Iran, not just about the 100,000 Kurds brutally murdered in northern Iraq; not just the 200,000 Shia Muslims driven from the marshlands in southern Iraq; not just the attempt to subjugate and brutalise the Kuwaitis in 1990 which led to the Gulf War. Read also about the routine butchering of political opponents; the prison "cleansing" regimes in which thousands die; the torture chambers and hideous penalties supervised by him and his family and detailed by Amnesty International.

Read it all and again I defy anyone to say that this cruel and sadistic dictator should be allowed any possibility of getting his hands on more chemical, biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

Why now? People ask. I agree I cannot say that this month or next, even this year or next, that he will use his weapons. But I can say that if the international community having made the call for his disarmament, now, at this moment, at the point of decision, shrugs its shoulders and walks away, he will draw the conclusion dictators faced with a weakening will, always draw. That the international community will talk but not act; will use diplomacy but not force; and we know, again from our history, that diplomacy, not backed by the threat of force, has never worked with dictators and never will work.

Blair says Saddam has a choice to
Blair says Saddam has a choice to "comply willingly or be forced to comply"

If we take this course, if we refuse to implement the will of the international community, he will carry on, his efforts will intensify, his confidence grow and at some point, in a future not too distant, the threat will turn into reality. The threat, therefore, is not imagined. The history of Saddam and weapons of mass destruction is not American or British propaganda. The history and the present threat are real.

And if people say: why should Britain care? I answer: because there is no way that this man, in this region above all regions, could begin a conflict using such weapons and the consequences not engulf the whole world. That, after all, is the reason the U.N. passed its resolutions. That is why it is right the U.N. Security Council again makes its will and its unity clear and lays down a strong new U.N. resolution and mandate. Then Saddam will have the choice: comply willingly or be forced to comply.

That is why alongside the diplomacy, there must be genuine preparedness and planning to take action if diplomacy fails.

Let me be plain about our purpose. Of course there is no doubt that Iraq, the region and the whole world would be better off without Saddam. They deserve to be led by someone who can abide by international law, not a murderous dictator. Someone who can bring Iraq back into the international community where it belongs, not languishing as a pariah. Someone who can make the country rich and successful, not impoverished by Saddam's personal greed. Someone who can lead a government more representative of the country as a whole, while maintaining absolutely Iraq's territorial integrity.

We have no quarrel with the Iraqi people. Indeed, liberated from Saddam, they could make Iraq prosperous and a force for good in the Middle East. So the ending of this regime would be the cause of regret for no-one other than Saddam.

But our purpose is disarmament. No-one wants military conflict. The whole purpose of putting this before the United Nations is to demonstrate the united determination of the international community to resolve this in the way it should have been resolved years ago, through a proper process of disarmament under the U.N. Disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction is the demand. One way or another it must be acceded to.

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