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The following 'Foreign Office Question Time' in the House of Commons yesterday mainly deals with the British government's support for removing Saddam Hussein from power, but touches on Kuwaiti prisoners of war having to be accounted for by Iraq before sanctions could be lifted, and the consequences of bombing Iraq. Also, Robin Cook says: "I am sorry to hear that Baghdad has only two ambulances. There is absolutely no sanction to prevent Iraq from importing all the ambulances that it requires." I've heard in the past that ambulances, or spare parts for them, have been specifically vetoed by the UN Sanctions Committee - does anyone have any proof of this? ---- seb -------------------------------- Text from Hansard, 1st Dec 1998: [initial questions:] 11. Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle): If he will make a statement on the United Kingdom's relations with Iraq.  12. Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): If he will discuss with his American counterpart future policy towards Iraq.  13. Mr. Christopher Fraser (Mid-Dorset and North Poole): What recent representations he has made to the Government of Iraq concerning the status of United Nations Security Council resolutions.  The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Robin Cook): We have made it clear to Saddam Hussein that our forces remain in the Gulf and remain on alert. If he breaks his undertaking to allow UNSCOM to resume inspections, we are prepared to take military action without further negotiation. There will be no let-up in our pressure on Saddam Hussein until we are satisfied that he no longer has weapons of mass destruction with which to inflict on neighbouring countries the terror tactics that he uses to oppress his own people. Mr. Day: The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that at a recent Prime Minister's Question Time, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition suggested to the Prime Minister that it should be a prime objective of British policy to remove Saddam Hussein from power, and the Prime Minister appeared to agree with that suggestion. In the light of BBC reports that seem to indicate that the Government do not agree that removing Saddam Hussein is their prime objective, will the right hon. Gentleman please tell the House the exact position? Mr. Cook: I do not know which BBC programmes the hon. Gentleman has been watching, but I have repeatedly said on the BBC that the whole world, including the Government, would welcome the removal of Saddam Hussein. That is why my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. Fatchett), the Minister with responsibility for matters in the region, recently met representatives of all the opposition groups in Iraq and explored with them how we might help them. However, if they are to succeed, those groups must work together more closely. Mr. Campbell-Savours: On the same question--my question having been asked earlier--is it not true that the American Administration has gone further? Following 1 Dec 1998 : Column 667 passage through Congress of the Iraqi Liberation Act, effectively American foreign policy is now to engage more openly in the removal of Saddam Hussein, and America is helping that process by allocating $90-odd million to the Iraqi National Congress. Is there not a marginal distinction between our policy and American policy, and cannot we be more robust and adopt what I believe to be a better American position? Mr. Cook: I am sorry to say that as my hon. Friend's question has already been asked, it has already been answered. However, to respond to his last point, I do not think that it would be possible to find a country that has been more robust than the United States and the United Kingdom on the issue of Iraq. During the recent crisis, we gave authority for our pilots to take off unless Saddam backed down, which he did there and then. We have shown great robustness on this issue and we shall certainly continue to do everything possible to assist those who wish to return Iraq to a more accountable system of government, and one that would engage with the international community. In the meantime, we shall continue our work to ensure, as best we can, that we provide the assistance that is required--humanitarian relief for the people of Iraq to spare them from the consequences of the way in which they have been oppressed by Saddam Hussein. Mr. Fraser: What part does the fate of Kuwaiti prisoners play in assessing Iraq's compliance with United Nations resolutions? Mr. Cook: The 600 people who were removed from Kuwait and are currently believed to be detained, or certainly detained for the time, in Iraq feature in United Nations Security Council resolutions. If, therefore, Iraq wishes fully to comply with those resolutions, which is a condition for the lifting of sanctions, it has either to produce those 600 people or to give a clear account both to Kuwait and to the international community of what has become of them. Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): What would be the objective of bombing Baghdad, a city of 4.5 million people with two ambulances, neither of which has oxygen, and a fire engine that possibly does not work--Dresden, perhaps? Mr. Cook: The House would not expect me to disclose specific targeting plans, but I can say-- Mr. Dalyell: If my right hon. Friend talked to them properly, it would help. Mr. Cook: My hon. Friend is very free with his allegations, so perhaps he will allow me to respond to them. The plans that have developed take very careful account of the need to minimise casualties as far as possible, and especially civilian casualties. There is therefore no question of a mass bombing of Baghdad on the scale that my hon. Friend suggests. 1 Dec 1998 : Column 668 I am sorry to hear that Baghdad has only two ambulances. There is absolutely no sanction to prevent Iraq from importing all the ambulances that it requires. Thanks to a resolution pioneered by the United Kingdom, Saddam Hussein can export $10 billion-worth of oil to pay for the import of food, medicines and humanitarian goods. If he is so short of ambulances, we would be delighted to assist, through the Sanctions Committee, in ascertaining how many ambulances he needs--if he would choose to put them on the list that he submits in place of some of the other claims for humanitarian goods that he has made, such as glass ashtrays, cigarettes, alcohol and plastic surgery. Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough): How do the Government envisage the way in which Saddam Hussein will be removed? Mr. Cook: As I have said to the House, we have already met the Iraqi Opposition. We shall continue to work with them. We have no legal base for using force for the removal of Saddam Hussein, but we will use force to make sure that Security Council resolutions are implemented. Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): Do the Government share the Pentagon's estimate that 10,000 people would be killed in any bombing of Iraq? If not, what is the Government's estimate? Do they think that whatever the number, it is a price worth paying? Mr. Cook: First, I do not recognise that figure. We do not share that figure. Secondly, undoubtedly the price for Iraq's behaviour and Saddam Hussein's Government is being paid by the Iraqi people. I urge my hon. Friend to read the reports of the United Nations on human rights in Iraq, one of which was published only last month. He will see from them that every year thousands of people in Iraq pay with their lives for being ruled by Saddam Hussein. Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): Will the Foreign Secretary publicly express his support for the campaign of INDICT set up by the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Ann Clwyd)? Will he act as best he may in international circles to have Saddam Hussein and others arraigned before either an international tribunal or an international criminal court as soon as possible, and thereby give hope to the many millions of people in Iraq who are terrorised by Saddam Hussein and want to see the international community to take action against him and split him from the peoples of Iraq? Mr. Cook: I am pleased to say to the hon. Gentleman that the Government fully support INDICT. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is sending a message to the press conference today expressing that support on behalf of the Government. We are ready to look at any means by which Saddam Hussein may be brought before any international tribunal, but the Government's immediate priority is to ensure that we succeed in the establishment of an international criminal court, which would be very relevant to Saddam Hussein and to any future Saddam Hussein. -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email firstname.lastname@example.org, NOT the whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html