British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Tuesday that his country has "sufficient legal authority" to join a possible US-led war on Iraq, even without a new UN resolution.
Britain believes UN Resolution 1441 passed last November and others adopted before it were good enough under international law for the United States and Britain to disarm Iraq by force, Straw told the Foreign Affairs Committee of the parliament.
"We are satisfied that we have sufficient legal authority in 1441, back to the originating resolution 660 (in August 1990) and so on, to justify military action against Iraq if they are in further material breach" of UN demands to disarm, Straw told the lawmakers.
Britain would "much prefer" a US-led attack on Iraq to be backed up by a fresh UN Security Council resolution, Straw said.
However, he emphasized that Britain has had to reserve its options if such a second resolution does not prove possible.
Backed by the United States and Spain, Britain tabled a draft resolution on Iraq to the UN Security Council in New York last week, declaring that Iraq violates earlier UN resolutions and would face serious consequences.
Russia and France, both veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council, are opposed to US plans backed by Britain to disarm Iraq by force, insisting that Iraqi disarmament can be achieved by continuing and strengthening UN weapons inspections.
Straw's comments came shortly before his talks on Iraq with visiting Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov at the Downing Street.
Local media speculated that Straw's talks with his Russian counterpart was aimed at persuading Russia not to use its veto to stop a second UN resolution on Iraq.