UN diplomacy is a waste of time, says Davis

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Indy Politics

The Tory leadership front-runner said British influence over the operation in Iraq "was squandered by an obsessive insistence on prolonging UN-based diplomacy that could obviously yield no result". He added: "How much better it would have been to concentrate on ensuring planning for peace matched the planning for war."

His hawkish comments, echoing neo-conservative right in Washington, clashed with Kenneth Clarke and Sir Malcolm Rifkind, who have criticised the decision to go to war. They also highlight the deep split between the right- and left-wing sections of the party on the issue, which may now become a major theme in the Tory leadership campaign.

Mr Davis even suggested critics of the war were exposing Britain to increased threats from terrorism. He said: "Those who complain that our closeness to America, in particular our support of the US in Iraq, has made us a target of terror, should think before they speak.

"Such remarks are a signal to extremists that we will adjust our foreign policy in response to their threats, which merely invited further attacks."

Mr Davis bluntly rejected suggestions that Britain should develop an exit strategy for British troops. He said: "The war against Saddam has been overtaken by a war against Sunni insurgents and al-Qa'ida which is far more dangerous. This war too must be won unless the Gulf is to descend into turmoil and the West be put at still greater risk."

Mr Davis insisted British links with the US were vital to combating terrorism. He said: "Without the intelligence support we receive from our American allies, our citizens would be more at risk, not less. Islamist terror does not respect the white flag." Michael Howard, the Conservative leader, had stepped up pressure on the Government to review its strategy in Iraq. He said it would be disastrous to pull troops out, but called for a reappraisal of Britain's role.

He told the BBC: "We have got to not just muddle on saying rather vaguely we will stick it through. We have got to have a plan, making up our mind whether there is a job to be done and whether the forces we have got out there at the moment can do it."