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(Mr Fatchett's comments about distribution of food-for-oil food don't square with other reports -- see note at end of this email) from http://www.fco.gov.uk -- REPORT ON MEETING WITH IRAQI OPPOSITION GROUPS EDITED TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS BRIEFING BY FCO MINISTER OF STATE, MR DEREK FATCHETT, FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE, LONDON, MONDAY, 23 NOVEMBER 1998 MR FATCHETT: Can I talk to you about three particular issues: first of all UNSCOM, then oil for food and then my meeting with the Iraqi opposition groups this morning. UNSCOM First of all UNSCOM. The situation is that the lack of cooperation with UNSCOM over the weekend will be discussed by the Security Council today. We see the lack of cooperation as a very negative start by Iraq to carry out its commitments of the previous weekend. We have always held the view that UNSCOM is crucial to our own policy and crucial to delivering an Iraq that is free of weapons of mass destruction. We are expecting full Iraqi compliance. We will be monitoring their activities on the ground closely. I noted what Richard Butler has said earlier today - that each and every act should not be used as the trigger for military action. We would share that view, but this is not by any means a good start. It is clearly a lack of cooperation and we will be watching the way in which Iraq responds and carries out its commitments. But yet again we are seeing Saddam Hussein reneging on commitments that he has given just a short time previously. OIL FOR FOOD Oil for food will also be debated at the Security Council this afternoon and we are co-sponsoring the Security Council resolution that should extend the oil for food regime for a further 180 days at the US dollar price value of 5.3 billion pounds. That should go through today. We are co-sponsors; France, Portugal, Sweden are other co-sponsoring countries. You will also recall that earlier this year it was the United Kingdom who sponsored the Security Council resolution that doubled the amount of money that could be spent under the oil for food programme. I thought it might be useful to give you some information about medicine and health under the oil for food programme because there is often a lot of confusion as to exactly what happens here. Let me give you some key figures. During the period of the last review of the oil for food programme which will be debated this afternoon, that is the previous six month period, over USD440 million worth of medicine has arrived in Iraq, but according to United Nations figures, of that USD440 million, only USD183 million has been distributed to the ordinary people of Iraq, less than half. Some of this is put down to warehouse congestion, but some of it is also a function of infrastructure and the inability or reluctance of the Iraqi regime to help in the delivery process. [***This doesn't square with other reports -- see [*] at end of this email -- SAW] But before we are criticised, let me tell you that there is more medicine getting through and the surgical operations have increased by 33 per cent since the beginning of this year. The availability of drugs has also led to an increase in patient attendance at hospitals and at medical centres. So there are good signs that the medicine is getting through and that the health is improving, although we need to do more. MEETING WITH IRAQI OPPOSITION GROUPS Finally, can I make a few comments about my meeting with the Iraqi opposition this morning. This is part of regular meetings that we have, Ministers and officials. I met this morning with 16 representatives of the Iraqi opposition. They covered basically 16 Iraqi organisations and let me give you a flavour of which parties were represented: the Iraqi National Congress, the Kurdish Democratic Party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Iraqi Democratic Party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq - those are the major groups - the Association of Iraqi Democrats, the Constitutional Monarchy Movement. So it was broad in terms of the groups that were represented. As I say, these are part of regular meetings that take place here between officials and myself on an occasional basis. As Minister I usually meet with these groups about every 2 or 3 months. The meeting this morning showed a very broad consensus amongst the representatives. They recognised that political change was taking place quickly, or events were moving quickly in relation to Iraq. They agreed to work on two particular areas: firstly to make available publicly through all the resources that they have the record of what has happened in Iraq under Saddam Hussein, to get that message across here in the United Kingdom, in Europe and within the region; and secondly, to work on presenting and projecting an image, a vision, of Iraq without Saddam Hussein, a more open, a more pluralistic, a more democratic Iraq that would come if there was a change of leadership. I asked them to come forward with certain specific proposals as to how the United Kingdom may be able to help within that particular framework. They have agreed to do that and they are working now to come forward with ideas. They will be meeting with Martin Indyk from the United States State Department tomorrow, I shall meet with Indyk as well, and hopefully we can co-ordinate their responses. We will be meeting here in the Foreign Office. The representatives recognise that they need to work together. I delivered the message very clearly that there was no point having 16 opposition groups fighting themselves in London, they had to work together, and that is why I have tasked them with the responsibility of coming up with specific proposals which we may be able to consider. Let me conclude by emphasising again that our primary objective is compliance with Security Council resolutions. It is not our task to change the regime in Baghdad, it is not our task to organise and overthrow the regime, but it is within our responsibility to help those who are coordinating activities from outside of Iraq to deliver a particular political message. We can help them, we can work with them and this will sharpen the political debate and make everybody understand what is going on in Iraq and what is likely to happen in Iraq in the future if there is a change of regime. QUESTION: The United States is now going to spend as much as USD97 million on overthrowing Saddam. Are we prepared to spend any money at all, not indeed on overthrowing him, as you say that is not our task, but on helping these groups work together? MR FATCHETT: In a sense we already commit resources to that because we have Ministerial and official resources helping them with that objective. We will look at the particular proposals they come forward with and see what we can do to assist. But very often the ideas that we are playing around with do not necessarily need large sums of money. One of the ideas that had universal support this morning is the Indict Campaign, the campaign which would indict Saddam Hussein and key figures in the Iraqi leadership for crimes against humanity. All of them are signed up to Indict, all of them can support that as Indict is more or less up and running as an active campaign and should be launched on an even stronger basis within the next few weeks. So that is co-ordination, it doesn't need additional resources. I think it will also capture the public mood because there can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has committed crimes against humanity, he has used chemical weapons against his own people. QUESTION: Actually what is really difficult is making something new and concrete come out of these groups. MR FATCHETT: We look to them to come up with ideas and we will work with them. I think it is always useful to reinforce these messages because sometimes, for instance on the medicine, and health, and oil for food, distorted messages come out of Baghdad. We saw that this weekend on UNSCOM when Tariq Aziz and the Foreign Minister were announcing that Iraq has been in full cooperation, that they have provided all the documentation that is necessary. We know that is not the case, we know that they have even had a concealment committee to hide documents in a concerted way from UNSCOM. So the Iraqi opposition can play an important part in reinforcing those messages. It is too easy for people to forget what has happened in Iraq and part of the international consensus that emerged over the last few weeks has been people remembering, recalling and recognising the need for action. So I don't think those are soft options, they are important options and we will certainly take those up and build upon them. QUESTION: What is your judgment having met them, or indeed from your own sources and intelligence community, about how good their contacts are with the organs of power inside Iraq; in other words, what is your judgment about their ability to organise a coup or topple Saddam Hussein? MR FATCHETT: I think they are now serious and earnest and I think they have good, if not decisive, contacts in Iraq. They have good information about what is going on on the ground. That is clearly the case with the Kurdish representatives, not least because there is the safe haven of the north which gives them access to a great deal of information. There is a change in mood from earlier this year amongst the representatives of all the groups; they are keen to work together now, there is a greater recognition that events are moving quite quickly in Iraq, they feel that the pace of the last crisis was one which suggested that there is a very good chance of internal political change in Baghdad. They make their own judgments on that. I think that is bringing them together and concentrating their minds and creating a greater degree of consensus. QUESTION: What are you doing about helping them with broadcasting propaganda? Did arms come up at all, did they ask for arms? I thought that it might have been on their wishlist. And are we going to cooperate with any attempts to find mass graves? MR FATCHETT: They didn't mention arms and we are not talking about any military support in that way and they understand that. Mass graves were not mentioned but in the context of human rights violations, mass graves are clearly sad but important evidence. In terms of broadcasting, I suspect that is one of the practical ideas they will come forward with and we will look at that and see what we can do to assist. As I have already said, we are not imposing ideas for organisation. QUESTION: Was there any consensus on an umbrella organisation which would reunite all of these factions into a single faction? MR FATCHETT: Yes there was, there was a view that they had enough in common to come up with a sort of mission statement. The differences were secondary in comparison to what they had in common. They agreed, and I very much share this view, that it is not our task to then recreate a new organisational structure. Our task is to say that these are the values, these are the objectives, they have those in common, and to encourage that process. -------------------------------------------------------------------- [*] extract from: http://leb.net/iac/11myths.html The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Food Program (WFP) have carefully monitored Iraqi distribution of all food and medicine purchased under Resolution 986 auspices. In February 1998, Voices in the Wilderness members interviewed officials from the WHO and the WFP. Both UN organizations gave an "A" rating to the Iraqi government distribution of food and medicine throughout every governorate. Over the past two years, dozens of doctors in Iraqi hospitals have told our delegations that they believe distribution of available medicines is fair. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. 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