The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

House of Commons Monday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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
Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]