Scott: how a constitution would help, the nuclear risk and other fall-out

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From Dr Stephen Pullinger

Sir: If true, your newspaper's charge that senior Whitehall officials allowed the export of nuclear technology to Iraq is the most serious one facing the Government in this whole affair ("Civil servants knew of Iraq nuclear sales", 14 February).

Since the end of the Gulf war, UN inspectors have revealed just how close Saddam Hussein was to developing a nuclear weapons capability. Indeed, if it had not been for his defeat in that war, he may well have been in possession of such weapons today. The consequences for Middle Eastern security would have been extremely grave and potentially catastrophic.

If Iraq had invaded Kuwait after acquiring nuclear weapons rather than before, would the Allies have been willing to send armed forces to liberate that country? More specifically, would British ministers have sent our troops to confront an enemy armed with nuclear weapons, the development of which may have been assisted by British companies in the full knowledge of those ministers?

Fortunately, ministers were not placed in a position of having to make such a choice. The strategic lesson of this affair is that we must try to ensure that they never will be, either. This will require non-proliferation policy taking absolute priority over, for example, in this case, a political game in which one state is played off against another. If we do not tackle the spread of weapons of mass destruction, the next conflagration that threatens our national interests may confront us with a stark choice of either conceding those interests or risking Armageddon.

Yours faithfully,

Stephen Pullinger

Executive Director

International Security

Information Service

London, WC2

14 February

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