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This is a debate Tam Dalyell secured on Iraq and Serbia 1.55 am Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): I wish to concentrate on Iraq, because my hon. Friends the Members for Halifax (Mrs. Mahon) and for Chatham and Aylesford (Mr. Shaw) and I were able to have 35 minutes of the Prime Minister's time a couple of weeks ago, with his PPS and his Foreign Office secretary, and he kindly said that he would consider some of our proposals. My first question is: the United Nations has been reporting since August 1999 on the stock situation in Iraq involving food and medical supplies, and these monthly reports show a satisfactory distribution picture. Why are Her Majesty's Government continuing to identify a picture of hoarding of these humanitarian supplies? That is my first question. My second question is that the President of the Security Council in January 1999 reminded the Security Council that there should be monitoring of the impact of sanctions on the human condition of those countries under sanctions, and also that the chairpersons of sanctions committees should visit their respective countries to obtain first-hand information on the ground. Why does that not happen in the case of Iraq, and what are the Government planning to do about it? The third question is that there is no sign of an end to the stalemate between the UN Security Council and the Government of Iraq with regard to resolution 1284. This stalemate is entirely at the expense of the civilian population. Keeping that fact in mind, what do the Government propose as an initiator of the resolution to end the stalemate? The fourth question is that the educated public in Iraq refer with increasing frequency to the suffering of the Iraqi people under sanctions, and to evidence of violations of human rights and international law. How do the Government answer that observation? My fifth question is that it is by now well known that the smuggling of oil occurs across all of Iraq's borders. It is also known that large amounts of the income from illegally exported oil are used by the Iraqi regime for expenditure on items of no value to the deprived Iraqi population, including the building of palaces. What do the Government propose be done about this? Why are ships carrying illegal oil intercepted in the Gulf, while large fleets of trucks--I am told at least 200 a day--carrying illegal oil from northern Iraq into Turkey are left unhindered? In September of last year, I went to Baghdad for the second time--I had been there first in 1994--with the former Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, who is not a naive man. We were appalled by the degradation of human beings. This country is perhaps the oldest part of civilisation. It is not all a question of the manipulation of propaganda; there is real human tragedy. It is also true that the Iraqi people are proud, and that they will therefore never allow the inspectors to return, given what has happened. 22 May 2000 : Column 836 One helpful action would be to ease student travel and allow the new generation of Iraqis to see something of the outside world from which they have been cut off. Secondly, financial responsibility should be returned to the Iraqi Government. Thirdly, Iraq should be allowed to become a member of OPEC again--a belief held very strongly by Hans von Sponeck, the German diplomat who resigned his post as UN co-ordinator on a matter of principle. Fourthly, reconstruction and an early overhaul of the Iraqi oil industry should be allowed. Oil experts around the world, and especially the Japanese, are amazed that the industry there should function at all, given the sanctions regime. Finally, water supplies must be monitored. In high summer, the great Tigris and Euphrates rivers have been reduced to little more than sewers. Confidence-building measures should be taken, where possible. Do rogue countries exist, or just rogue regimes? Behind the statistics stand real people. The UN co-ordinators, Dennis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck, went to Iraq as objective people. They say that 167 children die every day, on average. We must remember the fathers and mothers of those children. The problems in Iraq have been going on for something like 10 years. Where is the conscience of the world? We cannot believe blindly that economic sanctions will deliver solutions, because they have not done so. If Ministers could see what I and Albert Reynolds saw, their consciences would not allow them to sleep at night. Risks must be taken for peace. Nothing is solved by sanctions. We are concerned about the degradation of human beings. This debate is also about Kosovo, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and Serbia. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Halifax was going to speak in the debate, but I can tell the Minister that we are worried about depleted uranium. I hope that the Foreign Office will reflect on an article by Felicity Arbuthnot that appeared in the Sunday Herald in Scotland. It stated: The United Nations has issued an internal warning to all its officials in Kosovo that the water supply in the former warzone may be so contaminated by radioactive deposits of depleted uranium from Nato airstrikes that it is no longer fit to drink. Depleted uranium, used in military shells, has been linked to Gulf war syndrome and the spiralling levels of cancer and birth deformities. That is a real problem. A seven-page United Nations report has come into my hands. It was issued to UN personnel at the UN headquarters in Pristina, and it marks out the worst-affected areas of depleted uranium concentrations in that country. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews), who went to Serbia in March, knows how much concern there is in the hospitals about the issue. I conclude with one thought: the imposition of sanctions, which is the subject of the debate, far from weakening the position of those who are in charge of Governments, such as Mr. Milosevic or Saddam Hussein, actually strengthens them. Sanctions mean black market revenues, and who do those black market revenues go to? Mr. Robert Marshall-Andrews (Medway): I would like my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) to reflect on a simple issue that is political, 22 May 2000 : Column 837 not economic. He and I have been to hospitals in Belgrade. As a first-world country, Serbia had a success rate of 35 per cent. in dealing with almost all cancers. It has now been reduced to 15 per cent. People are dying in hospitals, entirely unnecessarily. The anger that is felt by professional--not necessarily political--people at what is being done to their patients in those hospitals is politically entirely contrary to what we wish to deliver. Those people, who are opinion formers in Serbian society, are now all anti-Milosevic, but they are silenced by what we are doing. I know that my hon. Friend will reflect on this. Moreover, no one in the House has a more honourable tradition of fighting against regimes of this kind than the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), particularly when it comes to sanctions. He must know that the distinction in this case is that we are encouraging the regime by imposing sanctions. As I must ask a question in this intervention, will my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow reflect on that? Mr. Dalyell: My reflection is that the sanctions imposed against both Serbia and Iraq are totally different from those in relation to South Africa. The conditions in South Africa were entirely different, for the sanctions were asked for by a substantial majority of the population. I have met no one in Iraq or Serbia who thinks that sanctions are in any way helpful. Indeed, they bolster rather than weaken regimes. It is late at night. This is a time for reflection. It is also a time of happiness for children in this country. We ought to think about the consequences of our actions for the children of Serbia and Iraq. 2.8 am The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Peter Hain): May I first apologise for arriving a little late and for missing the opening sentences of the address of my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell)? Mr. Dalyell: My hon. Friend was not late. Mr. Hain: I thank my hon. Friend for that. I am grateful to him for allowing us another opportunity to discuss Iraq. Along with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews), I respect my hon. Friend's long-standing interest in Iraq, and his genuine concern for the suffering of the Iraqi people. We both want to see more done to help them. My hon. Friend raised a number of thoughtful and interesting points, some of which I will reply to this evening. Those which I do not have the opportunity to address directly I will reply to in detail in correspondence, and will place a copy in the Library. When we last debated the situation in Iraq on 24 March, I commended to the House the provisions of United Nations Security Council resolution 1284. After months of intensive effort, Britain secured adoption of that ground-breaking new resolution in December last year. It establishes a new platform for the UN's dealings with Iraq. It deals comprehensively with a range of issues, 22 May 2000 : Column 838 notably the humanitarian situation, disarmament, and Kuwaiti issues, including stolen property and missing civilians. It represents the collective will of the Security Council and has the force of international law. Since I last debated this matter with my hon. Friend, excellent progress has been made on implementing the provisions of resolution 1284. I can update the House with the progress on humanitarian provisions, every one of which is unconditional. The resolution removed the ceiling on the amount of oil that Iraq is allowed to export to fund the purchase of a wide range of humanitarian goods under the oil for food programme. Iraq's oil reserves are second only to those of Saudi Arabia. Those factors, together with the recent recovery in world oil prices, have boosted Iraq's oil exports back to, if not above, the peak historic level of around $15 billion a year. Iraq's oil Ministers recently announced that the country plans to increase exports further by about 700,000 barrels a day. That would put Iraq among the world's top five oil exporters. Furthermore, the Security Council has doubled the allocation from oil for food for the purchase of oil spare parts, to $600 million. All that means that an estimated $10 billion will be available for the humanitarian programme in Iraq this year. The funding is available now, and it is unconditional. Food, medical supplies and other equipment can be delivered straight to the Iraqi people. With that huge amount of revenue available, one cannot help but ask why we still see pictures--my hon. Friend has experienced the reality--of malnourished and sick Iraqi children. Those pictures rightly provoke our anger, sympathy and compassion. There is no need for those children to want or to suffer. Why do they? It is an outrage that the Iraqi Government wilfully deny food and medicine to children and play politics with their suffering. The Government hope that by doing so, they will play on our sympathies and emotions so that we shall abandon Security Council resolutions and lift sanctions, leaving Iraq free to develop its weapons of mass destruction and reconstitute the threat to the region that it has posed time and again. We see no pictures of starving children from northern Iraq. My hon. Friend must address that point. The same sanctions apply there, but Saddam's writ does not run. In northern Iraq, the United Nations, not the Iraqi authorities, is implementing the oil for food programme. It is doing so in a manner designed to bring maximum benefit to the Iraqi people. As a result, the programme is making vast improvements to people's lives. New homes and hospitals are being built, minefields cleared and food and medicine delivered. All that could happen in the centre and south of Iraq if only the Government in Baghdad would allow it. The truth is that Saddam Hussein has no interest in putting his people's needs first. He chooses to reject offers of humanitarian assistance from other countries, additional to the oil for food programme, including assistance specifically targeted to meet children's needs. Yet he is encouraging journalists and campaigners to come to Baghdad and to tour the children's wards in its hospitals. It is a scandal that the doctors cannot get the drugs that they need, but the fault lies with the Iraqi Government. They failed to order enough medicines under the UN programme, then they failed to deliver them despite the huge resources available. 22 May 2000 : Column 839 Saddam Hussein makes much more money by selling oil illegally. None of it is spent on food or medicine. It is spent instead on luxury items for those closest to Saddam whose loyalty he wishes to retain. It is spent on building new palaces and theme parks, and on holding spectacular celebrations for Saddam Hussein's birthday. By our estimate--my hon. Friend referred to this--illegal exports of Iraqi oil outside the UN programme reached $250 million last year, and $170 million so far this year. We and other members of the Security Council are making serious and successful efforts to limit that trade. It deprives the United Nations humanitarian programme of revenue and it lines the pockets of Saddam Hussein's regime at the expense of the Iraqi people. We thus remain committed to the multinational interdiction force in the Gulf and continue to discuss with regional states how best to crack down on the illegal trade. We welcome Iran's recent action against several vessels containing smuggled Iraqi oil. We are also pressing Turkey for action--an issue that my hon. Friend rightly raised. I discussed the disarmament provisions of Security Council resolution 1284 with Hans Blix, the executive chairman of the new arms inspection body--UNMOVIC--when I was in New York in April. I was extremely impressed by his ability and by his highly professional approach to the challenging job before him. In accordance with the resolution, he has drawn up an organisational plan for UNMOVIC. I am pleased to report that, on 13 April, the Security Council unanimously approved that plan. Dr. Blix is now concentrating on recruiting and training his staff. When that is complete, I trust that those--like my hon. Friend--who have contacts with Baghdad will urge Iraq to take the genuine opportunity that is on offer for a fresh start with a wholly new disarmament body, and for co-operation with Dr. Blix and his staff. Recently, I met Yuli Vorontsov--appointed by the Secretary-General to be his co-ordinator on Kuwaiti issues. Like us, Vorontsov remains extremely concerned that Iraq is not co-operating with the tripartite commission process--the process chaired by the International Committee of the Red Cross, designed to account for the whereabouts of the 605 Kuwaitis and others missing since the end of the Gulf war. I urge Iraq to put an end to the suffering of the families of those who have been missing for so many years. They deserve to know what has happened to their relatives. My hon. Friend urges us to lift sanctions immediately and unconditionally, because of the serious humanitarian situation in Iraq. Under Security Council resolutions, sanctions can be lifted only when Iraq has complied with its disarmament obligations and following a review by the Security Council of Iraq's policies and practices--including its implementation of all relevant resolutions. In March last year, a UN panel of disarmament experts confirmed the analysis of UNSCOM--the United Nations Special Commission--that serious questions remain unanswered. My hon. Friend would surely not suggest that Britain--a permanent member of the Security Council--should decide to abandon the council's resolutions, which have the force of international law. Does he really believe that, if sanctions were lifted now, Saddam Hussein would suddenly change the habit of a lifetime and start putting his people's needs first? 22 May 2000 : Column 840 The answer lies with resolution 1284, which clearly maps out the way to the lifting of sanctions and, for the first time, provides for the suspension of sanctions, if Iraq complies with a standard well short of that required for sanctions lift. The Iraqi Government are fond of claiming that they have given up their weapons of mass destruction and that they have nothing to hide. If that is so, then they have everything to gain by resuming full co-operation with the UN. On Serbia, my hon. Friend raised several issues to do with depleted uranium. There are genuine matters for concern that we have addressed. I shall look afresh at the points he made, if he wants me to do so, to consider whether we can investigate and respond to them. Again, I shall place a copy of my letter in the Library. The European Union and its international partners are working on the basis of a dual strategy: one that combines the deliberate political isolation of the Milosevic regime with a determined effort to engage with Serbian civil society in all its forms. With increased activity recently by Commissioner Chris Patten and by High Representative Javier Solana, the EU is placing even greater emphasis on its relations with the Serbian democratic opposition and the Montenegrin Government, and on support for independent media, non-governmental organisations and civil society in general. The Serbian Government's actions last week--including the mass arrests of student activists, the takeover of the only independent television station in Belgrade, further repression of other independent media and police violence against the citizens of Belgrade--show why Milosevic must remain an international pariah. We shall continue and strengthen our efforts to support the embattled independent media and the journalists who are risking so much to preserve a basic human right--that of freedom of expression. My hon. Friend will know of the EU's energy for democracy programme. That was designed to help a certain number of local authorities in Serbia which, because they are controlled by democratic political forces opposed to Milosevic, were suffering particular discrimination in the provision by central Government of fuel for heating. Despite Milosevic's initial attempts to block the free imports of heating oil, the European Union has prevailed. The pilot programme has now been extended to other Serbian towns. Mr. Dalyell: Before 10 o'clock, I spent the evening with a visiting Inter-Parliamentary Union delegation from Bulgaria. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister visited Bulgaria during the conflict and there was close co-operation with NATO. Even the Bulgarians now favour a policy of lifting sanctions. Would it not be wise at least to talk to them while they are in London about their reflections, hard hit as they are by what has happened on the Danube? Mr. Hain: I appreciate the points that my hon. Friend makes. Certainly, we are very happy to continue discussing with the Bulgarians their points of concern. We continue to believe that a policy of isolating the Governments of Serbia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia--FRY--and making use of a range of 22 May 2000 : Column 841 targeted sanctions must be the key element in our strategy. In addition to the UN arms embargo, which has been in force since 1998, Britain implements the following EU sanctions: a visa ban on Milosevic and his cronies that covers about 800 named individuals; a ban on new investment which does not affect existing EU investments; a freeze on the assets of the FRY and Serbian Governments that extends to individuals and companies deemed to be associated with the regime, and a prohibition on making funds available to the targets of the asset freeze; a ban on the sale or supply of petroleum and petroleum products; and a ban on the sale or supply of equipment that might be used for international repression or terrorism. There are also UK national export controls on dual-use goods and on televisual equipment that is destined for the state media. The EU flight ban is currently suspended. The sanctions regime bears no resemblance to the comprehensive international sanctions regime that was imposed on the FRY from 1992 until shortly after the signing of the Dayton agreement in 1995. I should make it clear that it does not include a comprehensive trade embargo. The implementation of the financial sanctions regime is being revised to make clearer which Yugoslav companies are deemed to be owned or controlled by the FRY and Serbian Governments. There will be a "white list" of those companies in Serbia that are not deemed to be under such control or ownership. We will do our utmost to ensure that no companies are persecuted because of their presence on the new EU white list. However, it should be remembered that many companies in Serbia which do not align themselves with the ruling parties already suffer discrimination and harassment. 22 May 2000 : Column 842 We have made a number of moves since the Kosovo conflict to reduce the impact of sanctions on ordinary citizens. Most recently, we have suspended the flight ban on Serbia for six months. We are keeping sanctions under review, and will adjust the regime as appropriate. However, we must avoid giving Milosevic easy propaganda victories by the early or unwarranted loosening of sanctions, particularly in a period of increased repression in Serbia. Mr. Marshall-Andrews: Economic sanctions are an extraordinarily crude weapon. They cannot be targeted in the way that my hon. Friend suggests. The oncology hospital that we visited in Belgrade had only the desire to obtain medicines to treat cancer. Its doctors have to take bags of deutschmarks across the border into Germany to buy those medicines. Will my hon. Friend reflect on that point for a moment? Mr. Hain: I shall happily reflect on that point, but I ask my hon. and learned Friend to reflect on the consequences of simply lifting sanctions in the way he invites us to do. That would effectively allow Milosevic a free rein, and that is the problem with the sincere and heartfelt points that my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway made about Iraq and Serbia. They have not come up with a serious alternative strategy. Although we and our European partners have taken care to minimise the unintended impact of sanctions, we cannot always compensate for Milosevic's wilful disregard of his own people's welfare. For example, the difficulties associated with health care provision in Serbia-- The motion having been made after Ten o'clock, and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. Deputy Speaker adjourned the House without Question put, -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi