UK's Straw doubts Arab opposition to war

25 March 2003
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told Parliament on 25 March that he was unconcerned by the public opposition by both Arab leaders and the Arab public to war on Iraq. His comments follow a strong condemnation of the war by foreign ministers at the Arab League summit the previous day and widespread public protests against the invasion. 'It is well-known that in public, Arab leaders -have taken a public position of criticism to coalition action,' he told MPs. However, that public position disguises a very wide range of private opinions held by those leaders -I think we will see, once the coalition has been successful, a very significant shift, both by the leaders and by those on the street.' Straw also denied recent press reports that Iranian troops had moved into Iraq. 'On the reports of Iranian militias' incursion into Iraq, we have no basis of evidence at all to substantiate what we regard as poor reports from the media,' he said. UK troops have been deployed along the Iraqi border with Iran in what military spokesmen say is a purely precautionary measure.

On the same day, Prime Minister Tony Blair, speaking at his monthly press conference, said that a 'huge amount' had already been achieved in the Iraq campaign and reaffirmed his commitment to the Iraqi people. 'Iraq will have a better future ahead of it,' he said. Blair also confirmed that he would travel to the US for meetings with President Bush and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 26 March.

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