Iraq Crisis: Labour MP warns of `genocidal' strike

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BOMBING Saddam Hussein's biological and chemical weapons sites would have a "genocidal" effect on the Iraqi people and on neighbouring countries, a Labour MP said yesterday.

Tam Dalyell, member for Linlithgow and one of a group of MPs opposing the threatened military strike, said in a Commons debate that "by a sort of dreadful collusion with Saddam that the US and British governments will be directly contributing to genocide."

He quoted from a letter to the Secretary of State for Defence, George Robertson, and to Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, from an Open University professor, Stephen Rose, which warned that the danger to people in neighbouring states would be "incalculable". The letter said: "If the bombing is effective we are faced with the inevitable, uncontrolled release of large quantities of lethal agents, including presumably nerve and mustard gas as well as anthrax and radioactive materials.

"These agents will drift over significant areas of Iraq resulting in further illness and death amongst its already impoverished citizens and will not stop at Iraq's borders."

Mr Dalyell also claimed that Mr Cook's Livingston constituents, whom he used to represent, were not impressed by his stance. "I don't think they want their present MP, the Foreign Secretary, prancing around the Middle East trying to drum up support for allowing the British use of bases from which in these circumstances to launch weapons of awesome destruction," he said.

Replying, the Foreign Office minister Derek Fatchett said that only the threat of military action could bring hope of Iraq complying with UN Security Council resolutions.

"Without that [military] option there would be no chance of the diplomatic process being successful. And that is what we have been seeking ... and will continue to seek," he said. "If we play the game in a way that appears to be appeasement to dictatorship, the consequences that will follow, we should know from the history of this century, are considerably more horrific than standing up to dictatorship."

After Mr Dalyell said that Tony Blair should avoid making the mistakes of his predecessor Anthony Eden, who was forced to resign after Britain invaded Egypt during the Suez Crisis in 1956, Mr Fatchett accused him of an "unworthy" personal attack on both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary.

The exchanges came ahead of next Tuesday's full-day debates in both Houses of Parliament.