The Church of England's House of Bishops has urged the British Government and the international community to continue to pursue all available peaceful means towards resolving the crisis with Iraq. In a submission to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee's ongoing inquiry into the foreign policy aspects of the war against terrorism, the House of Bishops has said that conclusive evidence is lacking of an imminent and specific threat from Iraq to international peace and security. In such circumstances, it contends, military action cannot be justified at this time. In their submission the Bishops said: 1. We affirm the Government's stated policy of disarming Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Unfettered and unhindered access must be gained for the UN weapons inspectors, in order to facilitate the identification and destruction of Iraq's WMD in compliance with all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions (UNSC). 2. We hold that the primary international concern remains Iraq's blatant disregard of the UN and its authority as expressed in relevant UNSC resolution. Any unilateral action to enforce Iraq's compliance with such resolutions risks further undermining the credibility and authority of the UN. 3. We recognise that in those instances where diplomatic and economic pressure fail to ensure compliance with UNSC resolutions, military action can sometimes be justified as a last resort to enforce those resolutions. 4. We nonetheless hold that to undertake a preventative war against Iraq at this juncture would be to lower the threshold for war unacceptably. 5. We believe that if military action were to be considered as a last resort, the outcome in terms of suffering on all sides could be immense, with widespread and unpredictable environmental, economic and political consequences. There would also be implications for inter faith relations. We therefore urge that these concerns should be central to all political and military planning. 6. We support and encourage the Prime Minister in his efforts to press for a new international conference to revitalise the middle east peace process, based on the twin principles of a secure Israel and a viable Palestinian state. We believe such a conference has an important role in trying to promote the wider stability of the region at a time of widespread suspicion and insecurity.
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