Iraq: Blair presents evidence, Baghdad denies

The British Government has released an intelligence report accusing Iraq of building nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction.

The British report, released on 24 September, states there is evidence that Iraq is actively seeking weapons of mass destruction. The British Prime Minister Tony Blair presented an intelligence dossier with evidence to his government ministers ahead of a full parliamentary debate.

The

British intelligence reportstates amongst other that Iraq has:

  • military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, including against its own Shia population. Some of these weapons are deployable within 45 minutes of an order to use them;
  • tried covertly to acquire technology and materials which could be used in the production of nuclear weapons;
  • sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa, despite having no active civil nuclear power programme that could require it;
  • pursued illegal programmes to procure materials for use in its illegal development of long range missiles;
  • learnt lessons from previous UN weapons inspections and has already begun to conceal sensitive equipment and documentation in advance of the return of inspectors.

Oil prices rose to a 19-month high on due to fears of an attack on Iraq. The Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has agreed to keep strict production curbs in place for the fourth quarter although the industrialised countries need more oil. Analysts have warned that global economic recovery could be threatened by surging oil prices.

 

Iraq rejected the British analysis as "baseless". TheIraqi Culture Minister Hamed Yousif Hummadistated that "Mr Blair is acting as part of the Zionist campaign against Iraq and all his claims are baseless."

Some deputies from Mr Blair’sLabor Partyhave published a counter-document, called "The dishonest case for war on Iraq." They argue that this is a war about oil, and intend to question Mr Blair when he addresses the House of Commons "about why Britain cannot have a foreign policy independent of the U.S. administration."

EU Member Statesdisagree on the issue of Iraq. While Britain supports the US on this issue, the recently re-electedGerman Chancellor Gerhard Schrödervoiced complete opposition to military action throughout his election campaign. The US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that has "poisoned" relations between the two countries.

TheFrench President Jacques Chiracstated his opposition to "any unilateral action". He underlined that only the UN Security Council can take a decision on military action.

But theSpanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznarundelined that it was dangerous to give the impression of impunity to Iraq.

TheItalian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconiexpressed his support for the US position. He called for the adoption of a new UN resolution which would foresee strikes against Iraq if Saddam broke his promise to allow unconditional access to UN inspectors.

Former US Vice President Al Gorehas warned Monday against Mr Bush’s approach on the Iraq issue. He stated that the Bush administration has embarked on a dangerous course that could alienate allies and derail the war on terror.

An independent British think tank, theInternational Institute for Strategic Studies(IISS), says Iraq could build such a weapon within a matter of months if it were able to obtain the necessary radioactive materials. The IISS report, released on 9 September, concludes that Iraq probably has large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, as well as a small number of long-range missiles.

 

The US administration is considering a full-scale attack against Iraq to prevent Saddam Hussein from using weapons of mass destruction. The US says it has evidence of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons of mass destruction programmes in Iraq.

UN weapons inspectors were driven out of Iraq in 1998 after seeking such weapons that Saddam Hussein had promised to give up in accordance with UN resolutions.

Iraq has agreed to allow the UN inspections to resume, however the Bush administration has asked the US Congress for the authorization to use force to oust Saddam Hussein.

 

The British Prime Minister Tony Blair plans to visit Moscow in October to try to persuade Russia's President Vladimir Putin to support the US and British position on Iraq.

 

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