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November 21, 2006
Israel's nuclear arsenal 'not a secret,' says Straw
Former Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has become the first member of the British cabinet to go on public record and formally admit that Israel has an arsenal of nuclear weapons.
"I don't think it is a secret. I have never pretended that they haven't got nuclear weapons, certainly they have got a nuclear arsenal and it is a working assumption," said Straw, in an exclusive interview with Editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed J Versi.
The House of Commons Leader made the admission after he was challenged about the Government's failure to acknowledge yet Israel's nuclear weapons in a wide-ranging exclusive interview with Versi to be published Friday.
When he was Foreign Secretary, Straw insisted that he had talked about Israel's illegal capability, which Britain helped to create nearly 50 years ago, "in the same breath” as India and Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, but he suggested that the Government first wanted to deal with concerns over Iran’s civilian programme.
"If you want a nuclear free Middle-East, which I do, you don't get proliferation, you stop proliferation, and then you ultimately deal with the fact that Israel has nuclear weapons, and I'm on record about that a lot," he said.
In his interview on November 8, the House of Commons Leader also told Versi that he accepted that there was a "continuing blaring injustice" over Israel's 50 year occupation of Palestine. "I have always thought, the glaring injustice of the Middle East crisis - Israel and Palestine - has caused a great anger in the Muslim ummah," he said.
"Resolving the Israel-Palestine situation is one of the most urgent priorities of all," Straw said, but like Prime Minister, Tony Blair, he denied that Britain's foreign policy had increased the threat of terrorism in the UK. He admitted that the situation in Iraq following the joint US-UK invasion was "dire," but insisted that it "cannot be the motivation for Usama Bin Ladin and his group because they were going before that."
The former Foreign Secretary, who was replaced in May, also admitted that “plenty of things one could have done better” in Iraq. "The preparations for the post war situation in Iraq and implementation were not nearly as good as they should have been," he said adding that there was "time lost" in the very crucial three months between the fall of Saddam and the bombing UN in Baghdad. "It was partly lost because in the United States a decision was made that the lead over reconstruction of the country should be given to the Department of Defense rather than to the State Department, and that was a great error," Straw said. He suggested that this was one of the things which the British Government would have done differently in Iraq, but said that the UK had only "limited influence over that rather than a huge influence."
The House of Commons Leader also spoke about the controversy caused by his call for a debate on Muslim wearing wearing the niqab (face veil), conceding that he did not wish to provoke such a reaction. “I wrote my piece out of concern about what was happening to the community, separation. I wish I hadn’t. Not because I have suddenly taken leave of my senses or any wacky idea about some future position that I may or may not hold,” he said in reference to accusation to become deputy Labour Leader.” There isn’t any “agenda” except an agenda which has hugely benefited the Muslim community in the last ten years,” he said.
But Straw rejected the reverse argument that the niqab is used as way of mixing in society by women who feel comfortable to wear it and not as an act of separation. “From other people’s point of view – in a non-Muslim community – it is seen as a separation,” he insisted. “They would think what is wrong with us that this lady is not going to let her see her face.” His argument was that it was “completely different” to the hijab, used to cover women’s hair, which was regarded as obligatory.
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