Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Duchy of Lancaster – in the House of Commons at 1:40 pm on 4 February 1998.

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Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair Prime Minister 1:40, 4 February 1998

The objectives are absolutely clear. They are to bring Saddam Hussein back into line with UN Security Council resolutions so that we can continue to destroy the chemical, nuclear and biological weapon capability that he wants to develop.

I emphasise yet again that it is important to realise that at every stage there has been deceit and deception on the part of Saddam Hussein. I shall give the House a couple of examples. Iraq claimed that the VX nerve gas project was a failure until we discovered that it had the capability to produce it on a huge scale and that four tonnes had in fact been produced. I have already mentioned a factory that was able to produce 50,000 litres of anthrax and botulinus. Iraq claimed that it was for animal feed. It was only when one of its leading people defected to a neighbouring country that we discovered the truth and it admitted what was happening, although it had been denying it for four years. It is for those reasons that inspectors have to be allowed in.

People keep wondering whether we cannot give Saddam Hussein a way out, but all he has to do is to keep to the agreement that he originally made and let the inspectors in to do their work so they can see that what he says is happening is actually happening. It must be right to ensure he does that. We will try every diplomatic avenue to ensure that the matter is resolved. If it can be resolved peacefully, so much the better—no one wants to take military action—but resolved it must be, and resolved in compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions.