London (CNSNews.com) - Britain's armed forces are ready for war and a second U.N. Security Council resolution isn't necessary before military action begins, British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said Monday.
At the start of a three-day tour of the Middle East, Hoon said U.N. inspectors could not be given unlimited time to root out weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
"We could be condemned for undertaking an abdication of responsibility on a massive scale if we give in to Saddam's endless procrastination," he said.
"We must do everything we can to avoid war, but we must also be clear: If conflict remains the only way of disarming Saddam, we are ready," he said.
"To do nothing, to give Saddam time without end as he wishes, would be easier than taking action, certainly," Hoon said. "In the short term, it would be simpler, removing the chance of conflict. But governments are not here to govern in the short term."
After visiting Kuwait on Monday, Hoon is expected to go to Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Later he told BBC radio that a second Security Council resolution was preferable but "not absolutely necessary."
"It is something that we judge to be beneficial in continuing to maintain our strong international coalition that wants to see the will of the United Nations upheld and enforced," he said.
British lawmakers will return to Parliament on Tuesday to hear a statement from Prime Minister Tony Blair. A debate and vote on Iraq policy - which is shaping up to be a key political battle for Blair - will follow on Wednesday.
Several lawmakers from Blair's ruling Labor Party and the third-party Liberal Democrats are likely to voice opposition during the debate.
Britain and the United States were expected to table a new Security Council resolution later on Monday, but France and Germany continued to take the position that a new vote is not necessary.
France intends to submit a proposal to strengthen weapons inspections, Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said the existing resolution afforded "enough possibilities to support the progress that the inspectors are making" in Iraq.
British officials said the allies would not push for an immediate vote on a second resolution.
"We will be allowing a good period of up to two weeks, maybe a little more, before we ask for a decision," said Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, speaking in Brussels. "It is still not too late for there to be substantive compliance by Iraq."
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