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New Year Message 2004

1st January 2004

The key event of 2003 was, for me, the war in Iraq.

The key event of 2003 was, for me, the war in Iraq. The implications have and will continue to have a significant effect on Britain's domestic and international outlook and it is clearly an issue on which there exists a wide divergence of public opinion.

My visit to Basrah with the RAF over the summer, left a profound impression on me. Firstly of the professionalism, excellence and sheer dedication of our armed forces, tempered only by fears of their 'overstretch' caused by the ever increasing demands on their services being unmatched by our investment in their numbers.

Secondly, Iraq spelt the death knell of the post war 'super powers' settlement. No longer can third world tyrants assume that they can threaten their neighbours and impoverish and persecute their peoples, under the cover of their Soviet or US backers. Additionally, we have since seen a welcome sense of urgency in the need to reform the United Nations to enable it to maintain a key role in the building of the new era into which we are now entering.

Have we, as the anti-war protestors claim, unleashed a Pandora's box of threats and potential threats, or have we actually initiated a new resolve to face up to threats to world peace and started a process which will enable global prosperity and democracy? My hope and belief is that the latter will prevail, although the process will be neither straightforward nor immediate.

Honesty of intentions from our Government will be vital to secure continued public support and, I am sorry to say, this goes rather further than simplistically attempting to persuade people that Saddam was storing weapons of mass destruction.

I wish all readers a peaceful yet resolute new year."


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