Despite the biggest backbench Labour rebellion ever against Tony Blair, war with Iraq looks more likely by the day - especially since Britain, the US and Spain tabled a "war resolution" at the United Nations. Here, The Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office answer questions put by the Evening Press...
Is war inevitable?

Ministry of Defence: The position is that war is always the last resort. We are trying to assist that by following the UN process.

War is not inevitable because there is still time, if Saddam Hussein chooses, to co-operate with the UN resolutions, and most recently Resolution 1441.

There is still time for Iraq to comply. That would avoid any military action.

Foreign Office: War is not inevitable. Our whole approach has been based on forcing Iraq to comply with UN resolutions through the credible threat of force.

Our latest resolution increased the threat of force against the regime and is the only chance of bringing further Iraqi movement. Saddam Hussein knows what he has to do. He has to give his full co-operation to the UN.

What would be the objectives to war with Iraq?

MoD: We're not going to discuss the details of any possible military action.

Foreign Office: If we were forced to take military action because Saddam Hussein continued to refuse to disarm, the objective would be to disarm him ourselves.

It is difficult to imagine that in doing so Saddam Hussein would be able to hold on to power since we would only take such action if Saddam Hussein was refusing to give up his weapons.

We have always said that we believe Iraqi leaders should be held to account for their crimes. If there were military action which led to a new government in Iraq the obvious place for Iraqi leaders to be tried would be in Iraq itself where the crimes were committed.

If Saddam were to be toppled, what regime would replace him?

Foreign Office: That would be a matter for the Iraqi people. We have always said that it is for them to determine their government. If there were military action there would always be a short period during which a military force would be in control. But it would be our aim that the Iraqi people were able to determine their government as soon as possible.

What would Britain's post-war commitment be to rebuilding a stable, democratic Iraq?

Foreign Office: No decision has been taken to launch military action and war is not inevitable.

Because of that we don't want to start sketching in detail how we would see a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, beyond saying that we would ensure that the Iraqi people were able to determine their future and that any humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people would be addressed.

We already have a huge financial commitment to aiding the Iraqi people through our own bilateral aid - which has totalled well over £100 million in recent years - and through the UN Oil For Food programme.

This commitment will continue. On rebuilding of infrastructure, we are not going to go into any further detail.

We are not yet at the stage where we are saying we are going to take military action. War can still be avoided. We need to send the message to Saddam Hussein that he still has the opportunity to avoid war and that it is in his hands.

What are the Government's estimates of British forces casualties and Iraqi civilian casualties in the event of war?

MoD: We are not going to speculate on an estimate of casualties. It is an issue which we are obviously very conscious of and much is done in military planning to avoid casualties. It is an issue we are looking at extremely seriously.

How long would you expect a war to last?

MoD: We are not at the stage of going to war and will not speculate on the hypothetical. We have made it clear Iraq and Saddam Hussein have to comply, but military action is a last resort.

Can you assure front-line troops that their equipment is up to the job?

MoD: UK forces will be properly equipped to carry out the tasks asked of them. Our armed forces have some of the best equipment in the world. Most of the equipment is capable of working in that theatre of war. We are in the process of desertising some of our heavy armour.

The SA 80 (the British Army's standard assault rifle) has been tested as robustly as it can be tested and has proved on repeated occasions to be an outstanding weapon and one of the best in its class.

The SA 80 A1, which was designed at the end of the 1980s, was designed as a very accurate weapon to counter the sort of operational tasks that were required at that time; the end of the cold war, northern European-type situations.

Under extreme conditions, cold, humidity or sand, you are going to have problems with any weapon system.

It was tested extensively back in 2001, in Alaska for cold, Brunei for humidity and Oman for desert and heat conditions. Since then it has been massively thought through and re-worked. There is no question at all that the SA 80 A2 has been significantly improved and does work very well in all conditions.

General Michael Jackson, the chief of general staff, said it "does what it is designed to do, and it does it well". A sergeant with the 1st Parachute Regiment referred to it as being the "BMW of weapons systems".

Work will continue while forces are in training and in the theatre of war where necessary. Forces will not be committed to action if we are not convinced of their capability. That includes their equipment.

What about post-war health problems relating to vaccination against biological weapons, or use of chemical/biological agents or depleted uranium shells?

MoD: The MoD has spent £8.5million researching ill health among Gulf veterans. While there is no evidence to suggest a link between multiple vaccinations and ill-health, to bring peace of mind to troops we make every effort to give vaccinations separately. We use standard NHS vaccinations.

There is no reliable medical evidence to link depleted uranium with ill health. Many independent reports have considered the battlefield effects of DU munitions, but none has found contamination sufficient to affect the health of the general population or deployed personnel.

Updated: 11:48 Thursday, February 27, 2003