From Channel Four News

Cook condemns war on Iraq

Published: 17-Mar-03; 22:38 By: ITN

MPs have given former Cabinet minister Robin Cook a standing ovation after he told the House of Commons he would vote against the Government's plans to go to war in Iraq. Mr Cook, who has resigned as Leader of the Commons in protest against Tony Blair's plans for war, gave a devastating critique of the Prime Minister's arguments for military action in a personal statement to a packed House.

He dismissed Mr Blair's claim that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to British people, insisting the Iraqi dictator had no weapons of mass destruction capable of being deployed against his enemies. And he said that the regime of weapons inspections and sanctions imposed on Iraq since the Gulf War had contained Saddam more effectively than military action had in 1991.

Mr Cook said the Prime Minister was wrong to argue that France alone was to blame for the failure to achieve consensus in the United Nations Security Council. War was opposed by many countries around the globe - and by the British public he said, adding: "I cannot support a war without international agreement or domestic support." He also claimed that that history would be "astonished at the diplomatic miscalculation" that saw the international coalition fall apart. Mr Cook warned that Britain was in danger of isolating itself internationally by going to war without the support of any of the international institutions of which it is a member - Nato, the European Union and the Security Council.

The former Foreign Secretary also questioned the US's motives for seeking to go to war, and suggested that Mr Blair would not now be sending British troops into battle if Al Gore, and not George Bush, had won the US Presidential election in 2000.

But he made clear that he would not be joining any campaign to unseat Mr Blair as leader of the Labour Party, heaping warm praise on his achievements and hailing him the party's most successful leader in his lifetime.

Mr Cook's decision to resign came after Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the British Ambassador to the UN, announced that there would be no Security Council vote on a second resolution. Mr Cook said that after working so hard to try to achieve a second resolution we could not now "pretend that getting a second resolution was of no importance." Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott said parliament would hold a vote on military action in Iraq after a debate in the House of Commons tomorrow.

"The prime minister will lead that debate and ask the House and the country to support our efforts to disarm Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction," Mr Prescott said.