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1993 - Mr Major’s Statement on Iraq

Below is the text of Mr Major’s statement on Iraq, made at Downing Street in London on Wednesday 13th January 1993.


PRIME MINISTER:

As you know, Royal Air Force Tornadoes and tankers have today taken part in a limited Coalition attack on surface-to-air missiles and their associated command and control facilities in southern Iraq. There have been no Allied casualties. All our aircraft have returned safely to base and preliminary information - and I emphasise that, preliminary information - indicates that the aircraft accomplished their mission satisfactorily.

Let me say that we did not take this action lightly. Last year, we established a no-fly zone over southern Iraq and the purpose of that was quite clear - it was to stop Saddam Hussein from the repression of his own people. Over the last few weeks, our aircraft in that no-fly zone have come under increasing threat, threat from Iraqi aircraft themselves entering the no-fly zone and from missile batteries installed in Southern Iraq.

Over recent days, the Iraqis have been ample warning. The action that we have taken tonight has deliberately been both limited and proportionate but we believe it will be effective in establishing the conditions which will enable our aircraft to operate in the no-fly zone with safety.

The Iraqi regime are in breach of Security Council requirements on a number of fronts. They pose a threat to aircraft protecting the Kurds in Northern Iraq, they are impeding the actions of the UN inspection teams, they are illegally entering Kuwaiti territory. Each and every one of those breaches needs to stop. If they don’t, we shall have no hesitation - again with our Allies - in taking the necessary action to enforce Security Council Resolutions.

The Secretary of State for Defence will be making a statement to the House at 10 o’clock.

I will take one or two questions.


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

QUESTION:

Prime Minister, have you spoken to President Bush about your next action?

PRIME MINISTER:

I shall be speaking to President Bush again within a few minutes.

QUESTION:

Do you have any idea of the level of Iraqi casualties that might have come from such missions?

PRIME MINISTER:

Not at this stage.

QUESTION (Michael Brunson, ITV):

How long can this cat-and-mouse game with Saddam go on? People are saying he should be taken out once and for all.

PRIME MINISTER:

I think he has had a very clear indication today of the fact that people are growing increasingly intolerant of his defiance of the Security Council Resolutions. I hope that he will learn from the lesson.

QUESTION (Robin Oakley, BBC TV):

Do you expect this action to put an end to violations by Saddam Hussein and are the Allies prepared to step up action if he continues to defy UN Resolutions?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are prepared to make sure that the Security Council Resolutions are enforced. I hope this will put an end to the infringements. We have hoped that before and it has not. If he infringes again, he must expect us to retaliate again and we have made it entirely clear to him that we will certainly do that.

QUESTION:

Do you regret not dealing with Saddam Hussein tougher two years ago?

PRIME MINISTER:

No. I think the decision that was taken to stop the fighting at the time we did was the right decision at the time. One has to recall we were operating under a UN mandate; that mandate had been enforced; we had no legal authority to do more and I believe it was right to stop when we did.

QUESTION:

Are you prepared to take the same tough action against the Serbs since many Muslims may feel that Christians in Europe are applying double standards?

PRIME MINISTER:

I think people know the action that we have already taken in humanitarian aid in Bosnia and we have a substantial number of troops on the ground and you will know the very sad news indeed that one of them was killed this morning.

Thank you very much indeed.