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Major insists on Iraq sanctions

The United Nations was warned by John Major last night not to ease sanctions against Iraq to allow the resumption of oil exports until that country's biological weapons had been destroyed. The Prime Minister, at the start of a two-day tour of Israel, told a banquet in Jerusalem that sanctions against Iraq must continue until their objectives were met in full.

In a clear threat to President Saddam Hussein, Mr Major said: "We are determined to ensure that the whole of Iraq's biological capability is detected and destroyed before there can be any question of adjustment to the sanctions regime."

There were still very serious questions to be answered about Iraq's biological weapons capabilities, he said. Foreshadowing the renewal of sanctions by the UN this week, Mr Major said: "The international community must not be gulled by Saddam's tactics of evasion and deception.

"I can assure you that the UK will not be deceived. We shall continue with good reason to approach sanctions rigorously in the interests of Iraq's peoples and of the Middle East."

Mr Major, who was heckled by Israeli hardliners yesterday, may face protests from Palestinian fundamentalists tomorrow when he hands over police security vehicles to the PLO leader Yasser Arafat as Britain's contribution to the peace process.

Senior British sources said Mr Major believed Mr Arafat should be supported as the best hope for countering Palestinian extremists who were threatening to destabilise the peace accord.

Terrorism was among the key items on the agenda in private talks with Mr Rabin and the threat from Islamic extremists which extends to London.

PLO representatives have lobbied Mr Major to press for more concessions from the Israelis but British sources said he would not attempt to engage in the peace negotiations.

Mr Major said: "We welcome and support the peace process and we applaud the courage which Israeli has shown in pursuing it ... Surely it can be in neither side's long-term interest to turn back now."