Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Saddam's arrest 'important' for Iraq's future: Straw

The capture of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has been a huge step for Iraq's future, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said on Monday.


The capture of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has been a huge step for Iraq's future, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said on Monday.

Speaking at a joint news conference with Japan's special envoy to Iraq Ryutaro Hashimoto, former Japanese prime minister, Straw said both Britain and Japan believed that Saddam's arrest was "important" in the future development of Iraq.

It has given the Iraqi people the chance to come together to work for their country's future, and also meant that the international community has the opportunity to end its divisions over the US-led war against Iraq, Straw told the reporters.

Claiming he was pleased that Saddam had been arrested, Straw stressed that Britain is now very cautious about the immediate prospects of Saddam's capture.

"It is probable that in the early stages we may see some increase in terror activity (in Iraq)," Straw warned.

Asked if Saddam would reveal some details of Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction, the major justification for the United States to launch the Iraq war, Straw said: "Frankly I'm notholding my breath for any confessional statement from Saddam Hussein... I think that his history of mendacity is so intense andso long-lasting that he wouldn't understand the truth if he fell over it."

On the future trial of Saddam, Straw mentioned about Britain's long-standing position on death penalty, which has been abolished in Britain.

"So far as the appropriate level of a punishment is concerned, the position of the British government and the British parliament in respect of the death penalty is very clear," Straw told reporters.

"We have abolished the death penalty here, we are opposed to the death penalty," he said, however, adding "the appropriateness of the punishment is a matter for sovereign governments and for the court."

It was likely that the Iraqis would want their former leader tried in his own country, Straw added.

At the conference, Straw also thanked Japan for its back for the coalition in Iraq in terms of donating money for Iraq's reconstruction and agreeing to deploy troops in the country.

Asked if the arrest of Saddam would speed up Japan's action to send troops to Iraq, Hashimoto said Japan is resolved to play every role it should play under the current circumstances.

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