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Cook comes 'under fire' over sanctions

Cook's motorcade gets the Prescott treatment ...


ELECTION 2000: 'Ethical dimension' to be pursued if granted more time:
CAMPAIGN TRAIL ROBIN COOK: He was under fire again yesterday but the foreign
secretary has no regrets about his 1997 pledge.

Financial Times; May 25, 2001

Robin Cook yesterday insisted he had no regrets over his much ridiculed
"ethical" foreign policy and hinted he was confident of remaining foreign
secretary after the election.

Asked if he hoped to realise his ambition to become the longest-serving
Labour foreign secretary - breaking the five-and-a-half year record of
Ernest Bevin - Mr Cook said it was a matter for Tony Blair to decide.

"I have enjoyed the last four years, and we have a lot of work in hand," he
told the Financial Times. "I will be glad of the chance to finish the task
which I have set in hand, but it is the prime minister's call."

A second Labour term would allow Mr Cook to continue to promote the
potential benefits of British membership of the euro, which he believes are

"It would deal a fatal blow to rip-off Britain. It would make people ask why
they pay more for CDs here than they would in the EU," he explained.

But a dominant theme of a second term could also be his determination to
persevere with an "ethical dimension" to foreign policy.

It came under fire from angry students when Mr Cook visited Norwich
yesterday to support the local Labour candidate.

Students at the University of East Anglia complained that Labour had not
been tough enough on Burma's military regime and criticised the government's
stance on Iraq.

Eggs were thrown at the foreign secretary's car as he left the university's
sports centre.

Asked if he had any regrets about his 1997 promise to deliver the "ethical
dimension" - repeatedly lampooned by the Conservatives, partly because
Labour has allowed arms sales to countries such as Zimbabwe - the foreign
secretary replied: "Certainly not."

He added: "Many of the people who follow the human rights agenda closely
have given a lot of support to what we have done."

But Mr Cook tacitly admitted that Britain and the US have been losing the
propaganda war with Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq.

Former United Nations officials have accused the UK and the US of prolonging
the suffering of the Iraqi people through UN sanctions.

Britain is working on a new UN Security Council resolution to improve the
sanctions regime. "It's important we change the terms of the debate and make
clear where the responsibility lies for the suffering of the Iraqi people,"
Mr Cook said. "It is with Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime."

He also defended the government's failure to pass legislation to overhaul
Britain's antiquated arms export controls, as recommended by the 1996 report
into the arms-to-Iraq affair. Mr Cook pointed to draft legislation published

The foreign secretary did nothing to dispel the impression that he is highly
sceptical about the US administration's plans for missile defences against
rogue nuclear states.

The prime minister signalled his support for the defences in February but he
told the Commons this month the government would not spell out its position
until the US produced detailed proposals.

Mr Blair faces increasing opposition from Labour MPs to the US plans because
of fears they will unleash a new arms race.

Mr Cook, asked if Labour supports the US plans, said: "No. Tony was quite
specific in the House of Commons. We cannot give an answer to a question
until we know what the question is."

As well as avoiding lengthy discussion of the US plans, the government is
desperate to stop the euro becoming an issue in the election campaign.

Mr Cook is reluctant to explain if Britain is closer to satisfying Labour's
five economic tests that would determine euro membership than when the
criteria were announced in 1997.

Opinion polls suggest people are three to one against membership but he
believes a referendum can be won early in the next parliament if the tests
are met.

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