31/07/2003

Government insists Iraq war 'legal and justified'

The government has restated its view that military action in Iraq was "legal and justified", following the publication of a critical report by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammell was responding to the committee's report on some of the most serious issues facing British foreign policy - instability in the Middle East, global terrorism and weapons proliferation.

The Minister said the government did not agree with the committee's analysis of the events that led to military action against Iraq.

"By unanimously supporting UN resolution 1441 the Security Council agreed on the threat posed by Iraq and its WMD programmes. We do not accept that UNMOVIC and IAEA had not presented any compelling evidence of WMD," he said.

"But the issue was Iraq's unwillingness to co-operate and account for its WMD. Some members of the Security Council disagreed with us, not on the threat, but on how to deal with the threat."

He said the government stood by the legality of and justification for taking military action.

"We remain confident that the evidence of WMD and the grisly testimony of the mass graves will in time demonstrate that we made the right choice," he said.

However, Mr Rammell said that he agreed with the committee on many of its conclusions, such as the importance of international commitment to the road map to peace in the Middle East and the need to put Iraq on a path to representative government and economic prosperity.

He also agreed with the committee's view that despite considerable success in disrupting the al Qaeda network, the government cannot be complacent.

"We are committing increasing resources to tackling this global threat," said Mr Rammell.

The government will publish their response to the study in the near future.

(GMcG)

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