Iraq war could engulf region, Britain warns US
By Kim Sengupta
INDEPENDENT (London) 09 August 2002
Britain has strongly advised the United States against attacking
warning that it risked intensifying the conflicts in Afghanistan,
and Kashmir, senior defence and diplomatic sources say.
In a sign of deepening discord between the two allies, British
and officials in Whitehall believe that a new war would "contaminate"
other crises."These are issues the Americans appear not to
considered," said one official.
They also have grave reservations about President George Bush's
a "regime change" in Baghdad because, London believes,
regime has been identified for such a change to take place. Britain
lumbered with leading a massive stabilisation force for "up
to five years"
in an anarchic post-war Iraq, with the prospect of the country being
While Britain is certain that Saddam Hussein has acquired some
chemical and biological weapons capacity since the United Nations
inspectors were expelled from Iraq, ministers have seen no evidence
he can use them in any meaningful way against the West.
America has countered the British worries by maintaining that each
conflict in the region can be contained and that it is impractical
for every issue to be resolved before taking action against President
Saddam, according to the officials.
But while the reservations of Britain, perceived as America's staunchest
ally in its "war on terrorism", have prompted some soul-searching
the Pentagon hawks, they have struck a chord at the State Department,
where Colin Powell, the Secretary of State, is known to be more
about attacking Iraq.
Britain's misgivings emerged yesterday as President Saddam appeared
television to speak out against an invasion. The Iraqi leader's
public appearance in a grey suit rather than a military uniform,
and at a
desk spread with white lilies, was calculated to rally international
opinion against an American-led assault.
President Saddam declared that any attack by the "forces of
terminology for the US and Britain would result in them "carrying
coffins back to die in disgraceful failure".
The Iraqi leader also used his speech to offer an olive branch
to Iran, a
country named by President Bush as part of the "axis of evil",
Iraq and North Korea. In Tehran, the Iranian Defence Minister said
country may be next in line for a US onslaught after Iraq. Ali Shamkhani
said: "Iran will retaliate in the severest manner against any
against its soil, in whatever form and by whoever."
The Bush administration dismissed President Saddam's speech as
"bluster" and containing nothing new. A spokesman said:
commitments at the end of the Gulf War to the international community
disarm, to cease being a threat to his neighbours, the region and
world. He needs to live up to his commitments."
Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, said the speech by President
did not "give an inch" on the return of weapons inspectors
to Baghdad. The
Iraqi leader said he sought an "equitable dialogue" with
the UN, but Mr
Annan said his statements didn't show "any flexibility from
position". Asked if the speech gave any cause for optimism,
Mr Annan said:
"Not at this stage, not unless there are unforeseen developments."