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Foreign Office Questions 7.11.00


7. Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East): If he will make a statement on the
humanitarian situation in Iraq and those items which the Iraqi Government
are currently allowed to import. [135166]

12. Mr. Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Hall Green): If he will make a statement
on the impact of sanctions on the humanitarian situation in Iraq. [135171]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Peter Hain): We
continue to take the lead in alleviating the suffering of the Iraqi people
at the hands of a ruthless dictator who cares nothing for their welfare.
Under Security Council resolution 1284, the oil for food programme will
provide more than $16 billion for the Iraqi people this year alone, paying
for a wide range of

7 Nov 2000 : Column 150

civilian imports from food and medicine to equipment to improve water and
sanitation facilities, to spare parts for the oil industry.

Mr. Anderson: Will my hon. Friend confirm that the solution to sanctions is
in the hands of Saddam Hussein himself by his taking the comparatively
simply step of complying with the--[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. An hon. Member is censuring me for the way in which I
call Members. I will not allow that, and the hon. Gentleman should take
himself from the Chamber.

Mr. Anderson: Will my hon. Friend confirm that the solution to sanctions is
in the hands of Saddam Hussein by his complying with the relevant United
National resolutions in respect of informing the international community of
his weapons of mass destruction? My hon. Friend has mentioned the sums
available to Saddam Hussein, but to what extent is that being spent for the
benefit of the people or on self-aggrandisement and palaces for the dictator

Mr. Hain: I agree with my hon. Friend. Britain wants to see sanctions
suspended, but the only vehicle for achieving that is the implementation of
the United Nations Security Council resolution 1284. In return for allowing
in arms inspectors--a new team headed by the widely respected international
diplomat Hans Blix--who will check on the capabilities in nuclear,
biological and chemical weapons, sanctions could be suspended within a
matter of months. We should all unite--critics of sanctions as well as
supporters of the United Nations policy in international law--in achieving
that, rather than playing Saddam Hussein's game and allowing him to score
cheap propaganda victories by humanitarian flights. We should also bear in
mind that, while his people have been suffering over the years, he imports
thousands of bottles of whisky, wine and beer and cigarettes by the million,
and surrounds himself in obscene luxury.

Mr. McCabe: I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr.
Anderson) that Saddam Hussein must bear considerable guilt for the suffering
experienced by the poor people of Iraq, but does my hon. Friend the Minister
believe that it is right for Britain to pursue an open-ended sanctions
policy against Iraq, which results in suffering for innocent children and
others, while simultaneously pursuing a preferential trade arrangement with
the authorities in Iran? Is my hon. Friend aware of the extent to which the
mullahs in Iran are acquiring weapons of mass destruction?

Mr. Hain: We are concerned about Iran's capability in weapons of mass
destruction, especially its acquisition of large numbers of missiles, and we
continue to press the Iranians on that matter. But I do not think that my
hon. Friend will compare the Iranians' relations with their neighbours and
with their own people with Saddam Hussein's record, which is uniquely

I must disagree with my hon. Friend on sanctions. Our commitment to
sanctions is not open-ended. We want to see the sanctions suspended. We
spent eight to nine months at the United Nations in New York achieving the
new resolution which provides for that very opportunity.

7 Nov 2000 : Column 151

All that is required is for Saddam Hussein to sign up to that resolution and
the sanctions could be suspended within six months. Everyone should work
together to achieve that objective.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): Is not it obvious that policy
towards Iraq is based on containment by utilising the deterrent effect of
credible military force? What possible contribution do non-military
sanctions make to that policy? They do grievous harm to the ordinary people
of Iraq, they have no effect on Saddam Hussein, his whisky or his brutality,
they give him an enormous propaganda advantage and they cause grave disquiet
throughout the Arab world. Ten years after the end of the Gulf war, is not
it time for the United Nations to lift the non-military sanctions?

Mr. Hain: I respect the right hon. and learned Gentleman's record on the
matter, and his broad support, which I acknowledge, for the policy of the
Government and the United Nations. However, $16 billion of oil for food
money is now available to alleviate and end the suffering of the people of
Iraq. That sum, per Iraqi, is equivalent to three times the amount that each
Egyptian spends on food and medicine each year. It is a massive amount of
money, and we must work to ensure that Saddam Hussein stops blocking it and
allows all of it to reach his people.

On the right hon. and learned Gentleman's point about targeted sanctions,
lifting commercial sanctions could allow the entry of dual-use goods, and
allow Saddam Hussein to re-equip his infrastructure and rebuild the weapons
of mass destruction, which he has used against his people in the north--the
Kurds--and his neighbours.

Sir David Madel (South-West Bedfordshire): The Minister said that sanctions
could be suspended provided that United Nations weapons inspectors were
allowed back into Iraq. Will he confirm that that is the unanimous view of
the Security Council?

Mr. Hain: It is the policy of the Security Council, which Britain will work
extremely hard to implement. There is no hidden agenda; if we can get Saddam
Hussein to comply with admitting the arms inspectors, we shall work
tirelessly to implement the full Security Council resolution. I am confident
that we shall be able to achieve that.

Mr. Harry Barnes (North-East Derbyshire): What methods do we use to harm
Saddam Hussein that do not harm his people?

Mr. Hain: We implement sanctions that contain his ability to threaten his
people. He has done that repeatedly, for example, by inflicting chemical
weapons on the Kurds. He has also threatened his neighbours by invading Iran
and Kuwait. From oil smuggling--equivalent to a small proportion of his
total oil production--he has been able to surround himself with a
considerable security blanket and amass considerable wealth. However, like
Slobodan Milosevic, all dictators learn that they cannot survive for ever.

7 Nov 2000 : Column 152

In retrospect, our sanctions policy will be perceived to have worked to
achieve our objective.

Mr. Richard Spring (West Suffolk): Does the Minister agree that Iraq's
humanitarian predicament must be viewed in the light of its treatment of 605
mostly Kuwaiti prisoners, including women and students? What pressures can
be brought to bear to get the Iraqis to provide information, even
information such as whether those prisoners are dead or alive? Does he agree
that humanity and decency demand that?

Mr. Hain: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point. I
pursued it with the Kuwaitis when I visited Kuwait last week. Hundreds of
Kuwaiti families are in the dreadful position of simply not knowing what has
happened to their relatives who have disappeared. The Iraqis have shown no
accountability. We continue to take all opportunities to press them to deal
with the issue, and to discuss with Ambassador Vorontsov his work on behalf
of the United Nations to resolve the problem.

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