Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

Margaret Thatcher

Press Conference ending visit to US

Document type: Speeches, interviews, etc.
Venue: Andrews Air Force Base, Washington DC
Source: Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Editorial comments:

Late afternoon?

Importance ranking: Major
Word count: 1626
Themes: Trade, Foreign policy (USA), Foreign policy (Africa), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (International organizations), Commonwealth (Rhodesia-Zimbabwe), Commonwealth (South Africa), Defence (general)

Prime Minister

Ladies and Gentlemen, I had a very good meeting with George Bushthe President which lasted about two hours, during the last part of which, the last twenty minutes or so, we were joined by Manfred Wörner, the Secretary General of NATO, which as you know was interrupted while we took a photocall.

While we were at the meeting, news of the vote on the United Nations comprehensive sanctions resolution came through, the resolution which was passed by thirteen votes and there were only two abstentions, no-one voted against.

As you are aware, that is a comprehensive resolution forbidding all nations to import goods from Iraq or from occupied Kuwait and forbidding them to export any goods to Iraq or Iraq occupied Kuwait. It is a totally comprehensive resolution and there will be set up a committee under the United Nations to receive regular reports. It applies to all nations and must be effectively enforced.

We also discussed, of course, some of our citizens who are both in Kuwait and some who have been taken from Kuwait to Baghdad. We are trying to secure the safe passage of those in Kuwait and in Baghdad out of those countries, and not I am afraid, as you know, [end p1] being very successful at the moment but we are represented in Baghdad and although our Ambassador is not at present there, our Charge has been to see some of those people and is looking after their interests. Obviously the United States is equally concerned about her citizens as we are about ours.

To return to the United Nations resolution, there are very few comprehensive sanctions resolutions under Chapter 7. If you add to that the total condemnation of almost all countries in the world of the aggressive action against Iraq (sic)—the European Community, Japan, the Soviet Union and the action of the Arab League with a few people dissenting—it is I think one of the most complete condemnations that we have seen for a very long time. And the action following the United Nations resolution should and must be made effective. [end p2]

Question (Peter Allen, ITN)

Prime Minister, you have not been a great believer in sanctions in the past, can you tell us why you believe these sanctions will work when in the past you have said they would not?

Prime Minister

There are very few comprehensive sanctions resolutions, as you know, very few indeed. There has been one as far as arms are concerned against South Africa and as far as arms were concerned I think that was reasonably effective.

As far as other sanctions were concerned, for example the ones against Rhodesia, although we had a Barra (phon) patrol to blockade things going in there, of course the main things went in from other countries of Africa and therefore they could not and were not effective.

So I think it is quite different when you have a nation which has violated all rules of United Nations Charter, which has gone in with guns and tanks to take and invade another country, which would have far-reaching consequences if it were left like that for every other country in the world, and particularly for small states in the region. That is very different from some of the other occasions in other countries on which we have been asked to put on sanctions and the difference is the reason why I believe these sanctions will work. [end p3]

Question (BBC)


Prime Minister

The West is dealing with a Saddam Husseinperson who, without warning, has gone into the territory of another state with tanks, aircraft and guns, has fought and taken that state against international law, against the will of that state, and has set up a puppet regime. That is the act of an aggressor which must be stopped. While a person who will take such action on one state will take it against another state if he is not stopped.

Question (Sky TV)

Do you believe in any way that President Hussein is taunting the West and in some way trying to get some response out of you, knowing all the time that a military retaliation is not on the cards?

Prime Minister

I do not understand your question. President Saddam Hussein and Iraq are aggressors. They have invaded another country, they have taken it by force—that is not the way we do things in this world. Other countries have rights, they have their right to their nationhood, they have the right to their territorial integrity. He has been rightly branded as an aggressor, contrary to international law, and it is not a question of taunting, it is a question of earning the condemnation of the world and the appropriate action which follows. [end p4]


I did mean though Prime Minister that he knows that there is very little likelihood of a military retaliation?

Prime Minister

I wonder why you are standing up for President Hussein, why not stand up for those countries of the world who believe in international law and are determined that it should prevail? The press, too, needs freedom of speech and international law to prevail.


… are you concerned about the British hostages?

Prime Minister

We are doing all we could and all we can and will continue to do so to get our people out of Baghdad who have been taken there against their will and to get our people out of Kuwait. Civilised nations will observe the rules with regard to citizens of other countries and I hope that they will be observed in this case. We still have diplomatic relations with Iraq and we shall do all we can through that to get them out and the world will make its judgment on any country which does not act in accordance with international law and on the rights of free peoples.

Question (Daily Telegraph)

(Inaudible) [end p5]

Prime Minister

If you look, it is one of the most comprehensive resolutions I have ever seen. And if you look at the detail, each nation is forbidden to import from Iraq or occupied Kuwait oil or any other goods and forbidden to export to it and there will in fact be a United Nations monitoring committee. That resolution was passed by a very wide range of people on the Security Council and the condemnation by other countries has been far wider and so we believe that will be effective. If it were to come to considering blockading then we would have to consider that.


Does Britain have any military option in this dispute?

Prime Minister

The method we are using to try to get Iraq out of Kuwait is by the United Nations sanctions and by denying imports to Iraq and exports from Iraq.


But Saddam Hussein has already ignored one UN Resolution, why should he not ignore a second?

Prime Minister

With all due respect, one resolution condemned Iraq and called upon her to withdraw. The fact that she did not withdraw led the United Nations, with almost unprecedented speed, to put on the comprehensive sanctions which in fact will be very damaging to the people of Iraq if they can neither export the goods by which [end p6] they live, nor import the goods which enable them to live.

Question (The Times)

Did you discuss with Manfred Wörner the possible threat to Turkey and the role that NATO might take in this?

Prime Minister

Turkey, of course, any threat to Turkey is covered by the NATO agreement under which any threat to one member of NATO is a threat to all and therefore we of course would consider under those circumstances the Charter of NATO would be invoked.


Do you see a timetable where this might settle within the shorter rather than in a longer period of time?

Prime Minister

I see great determination and great perseverance—both will be required. That resolution will work provided it is observed by all nations. It is in the interests of all nations to observe it. You might put it that the NATO Charter, even wider, a threat to one country that it might be taken over by a strong country, without any response from the United Nations, is a threat to each and every country and it is therefore under Chapter 7 that we take action in our collective defence against such action. [end p7]


As these events unfold, what are the prospects for a blockade of Iraq, what are the prospects down the line for military action along the lines of a blockade to enforce sanctions?

Prime Minister

I think that we must try to see that this United Nations resolution is effective. Most nations obviously will observe it because it is in their interests to do so and of course it is mandatory on them and therefore and it is unlawful to take action contrary to that resolution.

If it came to considering blockades then of course we would have to consider those. We have, as you know, one ship in the Gulf already because we have kept the Armilla Patrol there for a long time, ever since 1980. On that run at the moment is one ship which was off Dubai, which I think is now doing its patrolling in the Gulf, together with its associated supply vessel. Two ships are being moved up—a frigate from Mombassa and a frigate which was in Malaysia—one will arrive on Friday and the other on Sunday to the Gulf. That is a strengthening of the Armilla Patrol whereas previously we had taken it from three ships to two, it is a strengthening of the Armilla Patrol.

I hope that the sanctions will be observed, by virtue of the fact that any action to the contrary will be illegal, if not we shall have jointly to consider collective action of the kind of thing such as a blockade.