§ 4. Mr. Rathbone
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what contacts he has had recently with Governments in the area concerning the problems faced by the Shia communities in Iraq: and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg
We are in close contact with the Governments in the area. Most recently, in New York, in September, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs discussed with Foreign Ministers of Saudi Arabia, Iran and most other Gulf states humanitarian problems in Iraq, among other issues. We have always made it clear that repression of the Shia and other members of Iraq's civilian population is deplorable and must cease, as called for in United Nations Security Council resolution 688.
§ Mr. Rathbone
Will my right hon. and learned Friend reassure the House about the efficacy of the exclusion zone over the territories in southern Iraq, where the Shia community are living and where they have suffered so horrendously? Will he comment on any contacts that the Government have had with the Iraq national congress, which is meeting all this week and which draws together for the first time all the parties that are in opposition to Saddam Hussein?
§ Mr. Hogg
There have been various contacts with the congress. I think that my hon. Friend is referring to the meeting that is taking place in north Iraq at the moment, to which we are willing to send a United Kingdom adviser. On the no-fly zone in south Iraq—there is a difference between a no-fly zone and an exclusion zone—there has been, as far as we can judge, a reduction in the Iraqi Government's repressive action against the people in south Iraq, but I am bound to say that the position is still disturbing.