Britain cautious about attacks on Iraq

Click to follow
BRITAIN, which is sending two cabinet ministers to the Gulf this week to rally neighbouring states against the latest Iraqi intransigence, stressed yesterday that it was not pressing for the early use of force, writes Raymond Whitaker.

Iraq has ended all co-operation with United Nations weapons inspectors, and said yesterday it was prepared for military confrontation. The Defence Secretary, George Robertson, who is about to leave on a Gulf tour, said at a meeting with French and American officials that military action "has to be an option, because in many ways that is the only thing that Saddam recognises", although it was "not the preferred option".

Between Mr Robertson, the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, and a Foreign Office minister, Derek Fatchett, Britain will hold talks in all the Gulf states over the next few days. But in February, during the last period of tension, only Kuwait was prepared to allow US and British forces to be stationed on its soil, and there is likely to be even less appetite for any armed confrontation this time. Although the Clinton administration is maintaining a tough line, Britain appears to be laying more emphasis on measures such as tightening sanctions.