The British government published a 50-page paper yesterday, prepared by its intelligence agencies, setting out its case for taking action against Iraq.
Prime Minister Tony Blair presented the dossier to Parliament, which he had called into special session for the occasion. Here are excerpts of Blair's remarks, taken from government transcripts.
"At the end of the [Persian] gulf war, the full extent of Saddam [Hussein]'s chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs became clear. As a result, the [United Nations] passed a series of resolutions demanding Iraq disarm itself of such weapons and establishing a regime of weapons inspection and monitoring to do the task. They were to be given unconditional and unrestricted access to all and any Iraqi sites.
"All this is accepted fact. In addition, it is fact, documented by U.N. inspectors, that Iraq almost immediately began to obstruct the inspections. Visits were delayed; on occasions, inspectors threatened; materiel was moved; special sites, shut to the inspectors, were unilaterally designated by Iraq.
"The work of the inspectors continued but against a background of increasing obstruction and non-compliance. ...
"Eventually in 1997, the U.N. inspectors declared they were unable to fulfil their task. A year of negotiation and further obstruction occurred until finally in late 1998, the U.N. team were forced to withdraw.
"As the dossier sets out, we estimate on the basis of the U.N.'s work that there were: up to 360 tons of bulk chemical warfare agents, including 1 1/2 tons of VX nerve agent; up to 3,000 tons of precursor chemicals; growth media sufficient to produce 26,000 litres of anthrax spores; and over 30,000 special munitions for delivery of chemical and biological agents. ...
"Because of concerns that a containment policy based on sanctions alone could not sufficiently inhibit Saddam's weapons program, negotiations continued after 1998 to gain re-admission for the U.N. inspectors. In 1999 a new U.N. resolution demanding their re-entry was passed and ignored. Further negotiations continued.
"Finally, after several months of discussion with Saddam's regime this year, Kofi Annan, the U.N. Secretary General, concluded that Saddam was not serious about re-admitting the inspectors and ended the negotiations. That was in July.
" ... There is one common consistent theme, however: the total determination of Saddam to maintain the program; to risk war, international ostracism, sanctions, the isolation of the Iraqi economy, in order to keep it.
"At any time, he could have let the inspectors back in and put the world to proof. At any time he could have co-operated with the U.N. Ten days ago he made the offer unconditionally, under threat of war. He could have done it at any time in the last 11 years. But he didn't. Why?
"The dossier we publish gives the answer. The reason is because his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons program is not a historic leftover from 1998. The inspectors aren't needed to clean up the old remains. His WMD program is active, detailed and growing. The policy of containment is not working. The WMD program is not shut down. It is up and running.
"The dossier is based on the work of the British Joint Intelligence Committee. For over 60 years, beginning just prior to World War II, the JIC has provided intelligence assessments to British Prime Ministers. Normally its work is secret. Unusually, because it is important we explain our concerns over Saddam to the British people, we have decided to disclose these assessments. ...
"The intelligence picture they paint is one accumulated over the past four years. It is extensive, detailed and authoritative.
"It concludes that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons, that Saddam has continued to produce them, that he has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes, including against his own Shia population; and that he is actively trying to acquire nuclear weapons capability.
"On chemical weapons, the dossier shows that Iraq continues to produce chemical agent for chemical weapons; has rebuilt previously destroyed production plants across Iraq; has bought dual-use chemical facilities; has retained the key personnel formerly engaged in the chemical weapons program; and has a serious ongoing research program into weapons production, all of it well funded.
"In respect of biological weapons, again production of biological agents has continued; facilities formerly used for biological weapons have been rebuilt; equipment has been purchased for such a programme; and again Saddam has retained the personnel who worked on it, pre-1991.
"In particular, the U.N. inspection regime discovered that Iraq was trying to acquire mobile biological weapons facilities which are easier to conceal. Present intelligence confirms they have now got such facilities. The biological agents we believe Iraq can produce include anthrax, botulinum, toxin, aflatoxin and ricin. All eventually result in excruciatingly painful death.
"As for nuclear weapons, Saddam's previous nuclear weapons program was shut down by the inspectors, following disclosure by defectors of the full, but hidden, nature of it. That program was based on gas centrifuge uranium enrichment. The known remaining stocks of uranium are now held under supervision by the International Atomic Energy Agency. ...
"We know Saddam has been trying to buy significant quantities of uranium from Africa, though we do not know whether he has been successful. ...
"It is clear both that a significant number of longer-range missiles were effectively concealed from the previous inspectors and remain, including up to 20 extended-range Scud missiles; that in mid-2001, there was a step change in the program and by this year, Iraq's development of weapons with a range over 1,000 kilometers was well under way; that hundreds of key people are employed on this program; facilities are being built; and equipment procured, usually clandestinely. ...
"In addition, we have well-founded intelligence to tell us that Saddam sees his WMD program as vital to his survival, as a demonstration of his power and his influence in the region.
"Our case is simply this: not that we take military action, come what may; but that the case for ensuring Iraqi disarmament (as the U.N. has stipulated) is overwhelming. I defy anyone on the basis of this evidence to say that is an unreasonable demand for the international community to make when, after all, it is only the same demand that we have made for 11 years and he has rejected. ...
"Read the chapter on Saddam and human rights. Read not just about the 1 million dead in the war with Iran, not just about the 100,000 Kurds brutally murdered in northern Iraq; not just the 200,000 Shia Muslims driven from the marshlands in southern Iraq; not just the attempt to subjugate and brutalize the Kuwaitis in 1990 which led to the gulf war. Read about the routine butchering of political opponents; the prison 'cleansing' regimes in which thousands die; the torture chambers and hideous penalties supervised by him and his family and detailed by Amnesty International.
"Read it all and again I defy anyone to say that this cruel and sadistic dictator should be allowed any possibility of getting his hands on more chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons.
"And if people say: why should Britain care? I answer: because there is no way that this man, in this region above all regions, could begin a conflict using such weapons and the consequences not engulf the whole world."