Parliament & Politics: Cook rejects bombing claim

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The Independent Online
THE FOREIGN Secretary, Robin Cook, angrily rejected claims by a Labour MP yesterday that air strikes on Baghdad would involve "Dresden- style" carpet bombing.

Tam Dalyell, MP for Linlithgow, said that any attack on the Iraqi capital could lead todire consequences because of its lack of emergency services.

Mr Dalyell, a veteran opponent of Western military action against Presidesnt Saddam Hussein, clashed with Mr Cook during Foreign Office Question Time in the Commons. He said he was disturbed by repeated government warnings that it would strike against Iraq if there were any further delays over the UN inspection of the country's weapons sites.

"What would be the objective of bombing Baghdad - a city of 4.5 million people with two ambulances, neither of which has oxygen, and a fire engine that doesn't work, possibly - Dresden, perhaps?" Mr Dalyell said.

Mr Cook said that the House "would not expect me to disclose specific targeting plans" and withstood jeers from Tory MPs as he rejected further interventions from Mr Dalyell.

"The plans we developed take very careful account of the need to minimise, as far as possible, casualties and particularly civilian casualties," he said. "There is therefore no question of bombing Baghdad on the scale that you suggest."

Mr Cook said under a UN resolution pioneered by the UK, Saddam could export $10bn of oil to pay for the import of food, medicines and humanitarian goods. "There is, of course, absolutely no sanction to prevent Iraq importing all the ambulances it requires," he said.

"If he is that short of ambulances, we would be delighted to consider through the sanctions committee how many ambulances he needs, if he would choose to put them on the list he submits in place of some of the other claims for humanitarian goods he has made, such as glass ashtrays, cigarettes, alcohol and plastic surgery."