London, Sept. 22 (Reuters): British Prime Minister Tony Blair faced direct defiance from a key member of his Cabinet today who said another war with Iraq would inflict too much suffering on the Iraqi people.
“We cannot have another Gulf war. We cannot have the people of Iraq suffering again. They have suffered too much. That would be wrong,” Clare Short, Blair’s international development secretary, told the British television network GMTV. “We’ve got to have remedies that will hit (Iraqi President Saddam Hussein) and the elite, and not the people,” she said.“I think we need more thinking about that.”
Short’s comments came on the eve of a special Cabinet meeting to be conducted by Blair tomorrow. A so-called “dossier” on Iraq, in which Blair will set out what he sees as the case for action against Saddam, will be released on Tuesday.
Blair hopes he can use the document, first promised six months ago, to win over those within his Labour party who oppose military action against Iraq.
A special session of Parliament will be devoted to debating the Iraq issue on Tuesday, but there will be no direct vote on an Iraq policy.
More than 160 members of the 659-strong lower parliamentary chamber, most of them from Blair’s ruling Labour Party, have over the past few months signed a motion expressing “deep unease” about Britain backing military strikes on Iraq — particularly if there is no explicit UN resolution calling for an attack.
Short urged Blair and US President George W. Bush to use the UN to pressure Saddam, rather than pushing ahead with action not sanctioned by the international body.
She compared innocent citizens of Iraq to those who were killed in the September 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington and urged Blair and Bush not to allow them to be “sacrificed” to the cause of tackling Saddam. “We should be ready to impose the will of the United Nations on them (the Iraqi leadership) if they don’t cooperate, but not by hurting the people of Iraq,” she said.
“Each one of them is as precious as the 3,000 people in the twin towers (of the destroyed World Trade Center in New York). We can’t sacrifice them to putting it right.”
A military officer who commanded a British army brigade in the 1991 Gulf War also expressed strong opposition to military invasion on Iraq, saying such a move was totally unjustified.
“I’m absolutely opposed to a war,” Major-General Patrick Cordingley told the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.“I fell very strong that it is wrong. There is no justification for sending British troops to Iraq.”
Many commentators and analysts expect Blair’s Iraq dossier to contain few new revelations but to rely on findings dating to the early 1990s and well-worn claims that Saddam is harbouring weapons of mass destruction that could threaten other nations.
A British official said on Saturday the dossier would draw extensively on intelligence sources to lay out the threat from Saddam’s alleged attempts to retain chemical, biological or nuclear weapons programmes, but would not seek to link the Iraqi leader with the militant al Qaida network.