27/02/2003

UUP back Blair's stance on Iraq

Following last night's House of Commons debate on the Iraq crisis – in which 121 Labour backbenchers rebelled against Tony Blair's stance on the issue – the Ulster Unionist Party pledged its support to the government.

With two Irish regiments on their way to the Gulf region – numbering some 1,500 troops – Mr Trimble said that he was under no illusion that last night's debate represented a "further step along a route that might end in war".

Speaking in Wednesday night’s House of Commons debate, UUP leader David Trimble said: “We have no doubt about the nature of the regime in Iraq…We have no doubt about the threat, about the wars that have been started, or about the weapons of mass destruction that have been accumulated, and which continue to be there…There are United Nations resolutions that require Saddam Hussein to disarm. There has certainly been a failure to comply.

“It is only the credible threat of force that has achieved the little progress that there has been, and that has made Saddam Hussein permit the admission of inspectors. That comes after the failure of earlier UN resolutions…

He added that unless Saddam Hussein complied with the UN, it was "inevitable that that force will have to be used".

However, the Upper Bann MP said he was distressed by “the degree of anti-Americanism…and the personal hostility to the President”, which he felt had been expressed in many quarters.

Speaking in the parallel debate in the House of Lords, Ulster Unionist peer Lord Maginnis of Drumglass argued that urgent action had to be taken against the “Saddam terrorist regime”.

The former MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone said that "after more than 30 years fighting the evil of terrorism", he had "some considerable insight into what we face with the ‘Saddam regime’.”

He added: "I’m no warmonger – neither do I have to convince anyone that I would prefer peace – but I’ve learnt the hard way to be a realist. We should waste very, very little more time.”

Lord Maginnis then called on “action” to be taken to secure peace in the region.

(GMcG)

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