Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 3:30 pm on 23rd March 1999.

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Photo of Tony Blair Tony Blair Prime Minister 3:30 pm, 23rd March 1999

There have been no fewer than three statements on the matter in the House of Commons during the past few weeks. There is a defence debate on Thursday. I am making the statement today in the House, where I can be questioned, not least by my right hon. Friend. That is hardly a "Newsnight" interview—I will not go into whether it is more pleasant or not.

I shall answer my right hon. Friend's two specific points. First, as a result of our action in Iraq, I remember how many people told me that Saddam Hussein would be stronger as a result, that he would be more powerful, and that he would be better able to suppress his people and wage war on the outside world. None of those things has happened. He is weaker, his military capability is weaker, and his ability to suppress his own people is hugely diminished.

Secondly, the UN has been important in relation to Kosovo. It has passed important Security Council resolutions. Let me read them to my right hon. Friend. The last one, Security Council resolution 1199, demanded that Serbs cease all actions by their security forces against the civilian population, and demanded that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Government order the withdrawal of security units used for civilian repression. A further resolution in October last year, UNSCR 1203, reiterated the previous one and endorsed the agreements between Holbrooke and Milosevic, including the verification missions. Milosevic has been in breach of every single part of those UN resolutions.

The plain fact of the matter is that we have to act now to avert the humanitarian disaster that I have set out. Of course, we will have an opportunity to debate this, and of course we should debate it, but the reasons that we have given have been very clear and I hope that they will be supported by the House and the country.