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Straw welcomes UN plan for strikes on rogue states

London Independent | Dec 06 2004

Changes to the UN charter would make it easier for Britain and the US to go to war with Security Council backing against rogue states, the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, says.

In an interview in The Independent today - his first newspaper interview since Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, announced a planned shake-up of the UN - Mr Straw says Britain and the US could have gone to war on Iraq under the new UN rules, over Saddam Hussein's human rights abuses against his own people, including the Marsh Arabs.

Under the proposed changes, in a report by 16 experts, the UN's 15-member Security Council would be enlarged to 24 nations, and the UN stance on emerging threats would be tightened, because the world had a "responsibility to protect" people threatened with genocide, mass killings or ethnic cleansing.

Mr Straw said the proposed charter would prevent other members of the enlarged Security Council using the veto to block preventive action to protect people from genocide.

Asked whether he meant it would enable action to be taken against the Sudanese government over Darfur, Mr Straw said: "Not only Darfur, Iraq. Iraq was as much an example of large-scale human rights abuses, and what happened to the Marsh Arabs was getting on for genocide as much as that which has happened in Darfur.

"Had this new jurisprudence been there, I think the Security Council would probably - you can't be certain - have decided to take Chapter 7 action against Iraq in respect of human rights abuses. That would have been as much a basis for determining an ultimatum by the Council as weapons of mass destruction became. They are dealing with situations before a latent threat becomes imminent. That's very important."

The Foreign Secretary emphasised his belief that the threat of preventive action by the UN would in future force dictators and rogue states to bow to international pressure. But his remarks will alarm critics of the war, and raise fears that the changes would open the way to action by the US against other states, such as Syria and Iran, the latter identified by George Bush as part of an axis of evil.

Mr Straw firmly denies that he misled the UN over the case for war in Iraq, winning praise from Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, for his presentation. "I worked extremely hard to find a peaceful solution," Mr Straw says.

"The solution I wanted was a clear consensus in the Security Council to get Saddam to comply by the only means he understood, which was an ultimatum and threat of military action. If we had been able to do that we might have been able to find the truth out without military action." He said his evidence to the UN had stood the test of time.

Mr Straw says Britain is ready to offer observers and security support for the Palestinian elections. Two international conferences are required under the road-map. Beyond that, Mr Straw and Mr Blair are also offering London as a venue for a further meeting. That would be a "nuts-and-bolts" discussion of practicalities of the planned Israeli pull-out.

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