The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, yesterday pinpointed for the
first time security of energy sources as a key priority of British
Mr Straw listed energy as one of seven foreign policy priorities
when he addressed a meeting of 150 British ambassadors in
The US and British governments officially deny that oil is a factor
in the looming war with Iraq, but some ministers and officials in
Whitehall say privately that oil is more important in the
calculation than weapons of mass destruction.
These ministers and officials have pointed to the instability of
current oil sources - the Middle East, Caspian region and
Algeria - and the need for secure alternatives. Iraq has the
second biggest known oil reserves in the world.
Mr Straw told ambassadors that, following a review he ordered
last year, the Foreign Office drew up a list of seven medium to
long-term strategic priorities, including "to bolster the security of
British and global energy supplies".
A Foreign Office source said: "I can't say that energy is
irrelevant (to the Iraq conflict) but the issue is one we would have
to deal with even if Saddam was a cuddly individual."
The Foreign Office insists that the main motivation in the
confrontation is fear that Iraq has, or intends to develop,
biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. Mr Straw put the
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and terrorism at the
top of his list of priorities. The others are:
· To minimise threats to the UK such as uncontrolled migration,
transnational crime and Islamic extremism;
· To maintain a stable international system based on the UN,
the rule of law and multilateral cooperation;
· To promote UK economic interests in an open and expanding
· To promote democracy, good governance and development,
citing as an example involvement of the G7 developed countries
in helping Africa;
· To build a strong EU in a secure neighbourhood.