FOREIGN AFFAIRS – LIBYAN DISARMAMENT – 5 January 2004

Dr Julian Lewis: Does the Foreign Secretary [Jack Straw] agree that this progressive development shows that those people who anticipated a uniting of the Arab nations against the United Kingdom as a result of military action against Iraq have been proven wrong? Does he agree that we could go further and say that despite the long-term diplomatic moves, it was firm military action that had something to do with the outcome in Libya and a possible future outcome in Iran?

[Mr Straw: I agree with the hon. Gentleman's first point. All kinds of dire predictions were made about what would happen if military action were taken against Iraq. Although the casualty figures in Iraq for Coalition forces and for Iraqis have been higher than we anticipated, the negative regional consequences have not occurred. In fact, the regional consequences have been benign. As for the effect of the military action against Iraq on the Libyan discussions, we should remember that the discussions started four years before. It will be for historians to judge the exact effect of the invasion of Iraq, but the removal of Saddam Hussein removed the threat that he posed to the region. Those unfamiliar with the Arab world do not properly understand the focus for instability that Saddam provided, and to that extent his removal helped to improve the climate so that the leaders with whom we have been dealing have felt more secure about actively continuing negotiations.]