Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 10th February 1998.

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Photo of Robin Cook Robin Cook Foreign Secretary 3:30 pm, 10th February 1998

I wholly agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman that it is remarkable, and entirely down to Saddam' s behaviour, that, seven years after the ceasefire, we are still debating whether he will comply with the terms of the ceasefire. Nobody at the time when the sanctions were first imposed foresaw that we would still be here seven years later. The only reason why we are here seven years later is that Saddam persistently attempts to obstruct, to conceal and to prevent the UNSCOM inspectors from going about their job.

It is important that we make it plain to the world and to the Iraqi people that, if Saddam Hussein complies with the terms of the ceasefire, and if he abandons his plans to develop weapons of mass destruction, sanctions can be lifted and the people of Iraq can return to their normal life.

As to flexibility, of course we are willing to consider any creative proposal that would help us to achieve a diplomatic solution. But we are absolutely resolute in our belief that there is no point in accepting flexibility if it means that UNSCOM cannot carry out effective inspections. The objective of the exercise is to ensure that we find and dismantle those weapons. Any flexibility that prevents us from doing that leaves us with an agreement that is not worth having.