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speech by new Minister of State.

Thought people might be interested to see what Derek Fatchett's
replacement, Geoffrey Hoon, has been saying about Iraq. I've put some
biographical info about Mr Hoon at the end. --seb



[begin extract]


Kosovo has taken the spotlight off Iraq. But we have not dropped our guard

We should not underestimate the extent to which the malign influence of
the Iraqi regime still hangs over the region. No-one suffers more at
Saddam's hands than the Iraqis themselves. Recent weeks have seen brutal
repression in Shia communities in Baghdad and the south.

The regime simply does not care about its people. The most convincing
proof is its refusal to meet its international obligations, thereby
prolonging sanctions. But even if sanctions were lifted, I very much doubt
we would see Saddam Hussein putting his people's welfare first. Iraq's
record of aggression under his leadership - eight years of war against
Iran, the brutal invasion of Kuwait, savage repression of his own people -
suggests his priorities would remain elsewhere. Iraq has also refused to
engage constructively in the efforts of the international community to
help the Iraqi people. For years the Iraqi government rejected the UN's
offer of an 'oil for food' programme. Since it has been up and running,
the Iraqi authorities have wantonly failed to put it to best use.

But the regime's brutality and insensitivity to the needs of its people
does not mean we turn a blind eye to the suffering of the Iraqi people. We
must do all we can to alleviate it. We have consistently been at the
forefront of efforts to do so, both nationally and as part of both the EU
and UN.

Many argue that the best way to help the Iraqi people is to lift
sanctions. I do not agree. The British government would be pleased to see
sanctions lifted - provided the requirements laid down by the
international community are met. Given the political will in Baghdad, that
could happen swiftly. While the Iraqi regime pursues a different course -
using its people's suffering to persuade us to lift sanctions without
meeting its obligations - we must continue to contain their aggressive
instincts and do all we can for the Iraqi people.

It is in this spirit that we have come forward with a new draft resolution
at the UN. Drawing on the results of three expert panels, dealing with
disarmament, humanitarian and Kuwaiti issues, this provides, we hope, a
basis for the Security Council to re-engage with Iraq and, if Iraq
chooses, a way out of the present stalemate.

We believe that our draft SCR is the right way forward, an opportunity for
a fresh start, with the real prospect of renewed progress towards the
lifting of sanctions. If Iraq meets its obligations, then we will keep by
ours under the SCRs. We have no desire to prolong the sanctions regime a
day longer than is necessary to achieve the objectives of the SCRs.

But frankly one can hardly be optimistic with Saddam Hussein around. It is
not, of course, for us to remove him, or to seek to change the Government
of Iraq. But it is not difficult to see how much better Iraq's future
would look if he were gone. We want to see an Iraq in which its neighbours
can have confidence, acting in a way which reinforces the region's
stability. That means an Iraq which is whole, and reintegrated, respecting
its international obligations and pursuing good relations with all its
neighbours. We recognise the historic and cultural importance of Iraq in
the Arab world, and its enormous potential. We want to see an Iraq which
is united and free. We understand the strong desire in the Arab world for
it not to be excluded indefinitely - but the fact is that Saddam Hussein's
refusal to cooperate with the UN and meet its obligations and his repeated
challenges to the international community are the major obstacle to this.

Given his record, one can only be pessimistic about a change of heart by
the Iraqi President. Short of such an unlikely eventuality, we can only
wait for a change of regime. This would bring many benefits. Governments,
international financial institutions and companies would be ready to help
Iraq's economy and infrastructure recover. They would I am sure look
creatively at the help that might be gained. The many thousands of
patriotic and talented Iraqis who have fled Iraq would return home. Iraq
could return to its rightful place in the international community.
Regional stability would be put on a sounder foundation.

Until that happens, the threat posed by the Iraqi regime must be
contained. We will continue to use all the political and military
resources necessary to ensure the security of the Gulf region. The
containment of the present Iraqi regime is central to that.

[end of extract]

Biographical info about Mr Hoon from a May 17th Foreign Office news item:

Geoffrey (Geoff) Hoon was appointed Minister of State at the Foreign and
Commonwealth Office on 17 May 1999. He has responsibility for:

     Asia and Pacific 
     Middle East 
     North Africa 
     Export promotion (British Trade International) 
     Foreign Office Modernisation 

Mr Hoon has been Member of Parliament for Ashfield since 1992. He was
previously at the Lord Chancellor's Department, where he was appointed
Parliamentary Secretary on 5 May 1997. He was promoted to Minister of
State on 28 July 1998.

While in Opposition Mr Hoon held the position of Whip in 1994 and 1995.
Before the election he was an Opposition spokesman on Trade and Industry.

Mr Hoon was Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for Derbyshire and
Ashfield from 1984 until 1994, and was a member of the European
Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee.

Before entering Parliament, Mr Hoon lectured in law at Leeds University
between 1976 and 1982, and was Visiting Professor of Law at the University
of Louisville, Kentucky in 1979 and 1980. He practised in Nottingham from
1982 until 1984.

Mr Hoon was born in Derby on 6 December 1953 and was educated at
Nottingham High School and Jesus College, Cambridge. He was called to the
Bar in 1978 by Gray's Inn.

He married Elaine Dumelow in 1981; they have one son, Christopher, 12, and
two daughters, Julia, 9, and Natalie, 7.

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