PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR: I have said for many months that the issue of Iraq is best addressed at the United Nations. I am delighted that the Security Council has risen to the challenge, by unanimously adopting the US/UK Resolution 1441. I pay tribute to the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, our Ambassador to the UN Jeremy Greenstock and to their teams for the central role that they have played in this achievement, through patient and skilful diplomacy.
As the Resolution spells out, Iraq has defied the United Nations — and therefore the whole international community — over the last eleven years. It has been and continues to be in material breach of a series of UN Resolutions. With the adoption of this Resolution, the Security Council has made clear beyond doubt that the UN will no longer tolerate this. In the words of the resolution, Iraq now has a ‘final opportunity’ to comply with its international, legal obligations by giving up once and for all its weapons of mass destruction – its chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programmes and the means to deliver them. If it does not, then the consequences are clear.
This Resolution sets up a tough, new inspection regime. I have full confidence in Dr Blix and Dr El-Baradei and their teams, and full respect for their integrity and independence, as they embark on such a crucial and difficult task.
The position of the international community is now unified and certain.
The weapons inspectors must return to Iraq.
They must carry out their work without any restriction, condition or inhibition on their effectiveness. The duty of Saddam Hussein is to co-operate fully and totally.
That means giving access to all the sites and palaces.
It means allowing key witnesses to be interviewed free from fear. It means a full declaration of the weapons that exist and their whereabouts.
The obligation is to co-operate. It is not a game of hide and seek, where the inspectors try their best to find the weapons and Saddam does his best to conceal them.
The duty of co-operation means not just access but information. Failure to be open and honest in helping the inspectors do their work is every bit as much a breach as failure to allow access to sites.
The goal is disarmament of all chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. If Saddam complies, that is the UN mandate fulfilled.
I may find this regime abhorrent. Any normal person would.
But the survival of it is in his hands. Conflict is not inevitable. Disarmament is.
In the event of Saddam refusing to co-operate or being in breach, there will be a further UN discussion, as we always said there would be. To those who fear this resolution is just an automatic trigger point, without any further discussion, paragraph 12 of the Resolution makes it clear that is not the case.
But everyone now accepts that if there is a default by Saddam, the international community must act to enforce its will. Failure to do so would mean, having stated our clear demand, we lacked the will to enforce it.
So, let us hope this issue can be resolved peacefully. From the outset I wanted this resolved through the UN with the international community acting together. Now that can happen. We have made our choice: disarmament through the United Nations, with force as a last resort.
Saddam must now make his choice. My message to him is this: disarm or you face force. There must be no more games, no more deceit, no more prevarication, obstruction or defiance.
Co-operate fully and despite the terrible injustice you have often inflicted on others, we will be just with you.
But defy the United Nation’s will and we will disarm you by force. Be under no doubt whatever of that.
Finally, I have a message for the Iraqi people. We have no quarrel with you. We want you to be our friends and partners in welcoming Iraq back into the world community; an Iraq at peace with itself and its neighbours, its people prosperous and strong. You are an immensely talented people with a rich history and culture. You have much to give the region and the wider world.
Whatever happens, the territorial integrity of Iraq will be absolute. Whatever happens, we will work with you for a fairer and better future for the Iraqi people. You have suffered from long years of war, government corruption and repression.
I hope an Iraq free of WMD, a Government unable to use them to oppress its people and its neighbours, is a symbol of change for you and hope for the future.