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Evans: Speech to the European Parliament during the Extraordinary Plenary Session on Iraq

"The thoughts and prayers of my British Conservative colleagues are today with the young men and women of my country's armed forces on whom has fallen the heavy and dangerous responsibility of disarming Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction. The international community has long recognised the threat that Saddam poses to the security of our world, but there has sadly been a failure of our institutions to implement its decisions and bring about Iraqi disarmament as the UN has demanded in seventeen resolutions. I have to say, listening to this debate, I quite wonder if some ever intended for these resolutions to be implemented. Today is not a day however to argue our differences over the reasons for this, but as the Commissioner says, there are lessons which the UN, NATO and Europe will have to learn for the future.

That, I do think, does include the practical reality of reaching a full European consensus when there is clearly division, and even divisions within this debate. It is because our first responsibility is the defence and security of our people and the preservation of our democratic values, the very values which defend the freedom to participate in demonstrations throughout Europe which we have seen in recent days.

My Party has given its clear support to the British Government and helped the Prime Minister to secure a substantial majority in our Parliament last Tuesday evening.

Now that the war has started, the eyes of the world have clearly moved elsewhere. But I wish to welcome the publication of the road map to peace in the Middle East and not to treat it in the cynical way to which it has been referred in this debate. I have to say that if we are committed to peace in the Middle East, we should all welcome the announcement. But I also welcome the recognition of the UN's role in the post-war reconstruction in Iraq. I am much encouraged by what Commissioner Patten had to say about reconstruction today after what I thought was a rather different message last week.

There is no doubt that we enjoy peace, democracy and freedom of expression because European history has told us that the last generation, including the United States, led by Roosevelt, fought to preserve freedom alongside us, and I believe the failure to do the same now would create dangers to those freedoms in the future."

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