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[casi] Britain urges US to delay war to autumn

Dear all

This seems to me to be the most important
newspaper report of the whole crisis. The British
Government, under fierce political pressure from the
anti-war movement both inside and outside the
Labour Party, is trying to postpone the war on Iraq.

The prepenultimate paragraph notes that Britain will
(reluctantly) go along with a spring war if the US is
determined to go to war early. It's our job on both
sides of the Atlantic to stop this from happening.

If we can make this war politically impossible in the
spring of 2003, we can make it politically impossible in
the autumn of 2003, and after that the US presidential
election cycle is generally reckoned to rule out a major

Best wishes

Milan Rai
ARROW & Voices in the Wilderness UK
Daily Telegraph 9 January 2003 page 1
Britain urges US to delay war until autumn
By Anton La Guardia and George Jones
(Filed: 09/01/2003)

Britain is pressing for war against Iraq to be delayed
for several months, possibly until the autumn, to give
weapons inspectors more time to provide clear
evidence of new violations by Saddam Hussein.

British officials know that the real decision will be
taken by Bush
Ministers and senior officials believe that there is no
clear legal case for military action despite the build-up
of American and British forces in the Gulf.

Senior diplomats have told the Government that there
is a good chance of securing United Nations Security
Council approval for military action later in the year if
Saddam can be shown unambiguously to be defying
the disarmament conditions set out in resolution

"The Prime Minister has made it clear that, unless
there is a smoking gun, the inspectors have to be given
time to keep searching," a senior Whitehall source

The uncertainty at the heart of the Government has
resulted in ministers blowing hot and cold over the
prospects for early military action.

The tensions were highlighted on Tuesday when Geoff
Hoon, the Defence Secretary, publicly rebuked Jack
Straw, the Foreign Secretary, for playing down the
chances of war.

In the Commons yesterday Tony Blair denied that the
Cabinet was split or that he was engaging in
"dangerous brinkmanship" with Saddam over Iraq's
weapons of mass destruction.

But he was left in no doubt of growing opposition
among Labour MPs to joining an American-led attack
without convincing proof that Saddam had defied UN
demands to dismantle his nuclear, chemical and
biological programmes.

The exchanges showed that the Prime Minister could
face a major revolt if he went to war without UN

As the tempo of military preparations accelerates,
British diplomats say they can win UN support for
war only if the inspectors can corner Saddam, either
by finding banned weapons and components or by
forcing him to deny access to sites or to officials.

"Nobody familiar with the inspections process expects
them to come up with the goods in a matter of
weeks," a senior British official said.

"There is an assumption that there will be a campaign
before the summer because of the heat. The autumn
would be just as sensible a time and in the meanwhile
Saddam would be thoroughly constrained by the

Although the Government has sent a powerful naval
force to the region and called up reservists, there has
been a significant softening of Whitehall's warlike

Mr Straw said he thought the prospects of war were
roughly 60:40 against. No 10 backed Mr Straw in
downgrading the importance of the inspectors' first
full report to the Security Council on Jan 27.

Officials said the date was "not a deadline"; the
inspectors should be given "time and space" to carry
out their work. They also insisted that an indefinite
game of "cat and mouse" was not acceptable.

Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, is expected to
tell the Security Council that Iraq is co-operating in
terms of procedure, but that he needs time to
investigate the apparent omissions in the latest
declaration of its weapons programmes.

Hard-liners in Washington see Iraq's claim that it has
no banned weapons as enough justification for action.

British officials know that the real decision about the
war will be taken by President George W Bush.
Powerful voices in Washington argue that
prevarication would risk allowing another crisis to
divert the effort against Iraq and afford Saddam a
symbolic victory.

British officials hope that London's reservations and
Mr Blair's growing problems in the Labour Party will
help to tip the balance in the Bush administration in
favour of delay.

But they accept that Britain will go along with an
American-led war in almost all circumstances,
including a conflict in the spring if Washington is
determined to launch an early campaign.

The first Prime Minister's Questions of the year, held
at noon instead of 3pm under Commons reforms, was
dominated by Iraq.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory leader, highlighting the
spat between Mr Hoon and Mr Straw, warned Mr
Blair that he could not win public backing for a war if
he could not convince his Cabinet and if troops were
only "half-prepared for war".

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