HC Deb 07 May 1986 vol 97 cc142-3
8. Mr. Thurnham

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the prospect of an end to the Iran-Iraq war.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Tim Renton)

Regrettably, there are no signs of any early end to the Iran-Iraq conflict. We believe, however, that the international community must continue its efforts to secure full implemention of Security Council resolution 582 which calls, among other things, for an immediate ceasefire. We continue to lend full support to the efforts of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in his search for a negotiated settlement.

Mr. Thurnham

In the light of recent allegations that European arms dealers are rushing to supply arms to Iraq, will my hon. Friend confirm that he remains opposed to British companies selling arms to either country in this tragic conflict?

Mr. Renton

I can assure my hon. Friend that all applications to export defence-related equipment to either Iran or Iraq are subject to the granting of an export licence and we refuse such licences when we consider that the equipment could significantly enhance the capability of either side to prolong or exacerbate the situation. I wish that other Governments would follow our strict example.

Mr. Tom Clarke

Will the Minister advise the Prime Minister, as she prepares to go to Israel later this month, to condemn the flow of arms to both parties in this dispute, but especially those arms that might be sent to Iran by way of Israel?

Mr. Renton

I have no doubt that the question of the Iran-Iraq dispute will be discussed during the forthcoming visit to Israel by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. I also hope to discuss it when the Secretary-General of the United Nations is here this coming weekend.

Mr. Dickens

Is my hon. Friend aware that before the days of the Shah of Persia, Britain kept peace in the middle east for 400 years? In this case, what steps are Her Majesty's Government taking, with our vast experience in the middle east and our diplomatic skills, to effect a ceasefire?

Mr. Renton

I am glad to be assured by my hon. Friend that in past centuries Britain had such a great influence over the Ottoman empire. Through our diplomatic missions in the Gulf, and through our membership of the Security Council, we have continual discussions with all the parties in the middle east who could bring this tragic conflict to an end. It is worth reminding the House that more than 500,000 people have been killed in the Iran-Iraq war. I hope that the Islamic conference and the Arab League will add their efforts to those of the United Nations Secretary-General and so bring the conflict to an end.

Mr. Anderson

I should be interested to know how the Minister reconciles his declared policy on arms supply with the supply of Chieftan spare parts from an RAF airfield. What investigations have the Government made into the allegations that a building in Victoria street is the main entrepot for the procurement of arms for Iran? What counter have the Government made to American allegations that we are failing to co-operate with them over the extradition of British nationals who face indictments in the United States for illegal arms supply to Iran? What investigations have been made about allegations of the illegal use of diplomatic bags by Iran for the export of arms?

Mr. Renton

I reassure the hon. Gentleman that recently no new applications for the export of arms that would significantly prolong the conflict on either side have been approved. If the Iranian procurement office wished to export war materials, that would have to be covered by an appropriate licence. We have not received any applications for such licences. If we obtained evidence of illegal activity in that context, we would take the appropriate steps without delay. I am unaware of any request for extradition from the United States along the lines mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, but I shall pass on his remarks to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary for consideration.

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