HC Deb 10 February 1998 vol 306 cc138-9
13. Mr. Viggers

If he will list the measures taken by Her Majesty's Government to support the effectiveness of UN weapon inspection teams in Iraq. [26443]

Mr. Robin Cook

The UK is one of the main providers of specialist personnel to the United Nations Special Commission. We have been at the forefront of measures both in New York and in the Gulf to press Saddam to grant UNSCOM the full access required by Security Council resolutions, which is essential if UNSCOM is to carry out its work effectively. Later today, I shall make a further statement on Iraq.

Mr. Viggers

Does the Foreign Secretary agree that, whereas everyone understands that high-technology nuclear weapons pose a threat to the world population, many may find it difficult to realise that a small jar of biological agent can similarly kill millions of people? Does the Foreign Secretary agree that the possession of chemical and biological weapons by Saddam Hussein, and his continued flouting of Security Council resolution 687, poses a threat to world stability, and will he use all diplomatic channels to seek to ensure that we now have full support for taking any measures necessary to ensure that resolution 687 is accepted?

Mr. Cook

The hon. Member is correct in everything that he says. Saddam Hussein has the capacity to produce 200 tonnes of the VX nerve agent. If he had the means to deliver it, that would be sufficient to wipe out human life from the planet. It is very important for us, therefore—not only for the countries immediately adjacent to Iraq—that every possible diplomatic pressure, and the clear resolve to use military force if necessary, is applied to ensure that he is not left in possession of such an arsenal of tenor. After all, he has already used nerve gas against his own people, in Halabja 10 years ago. He is perfectly capable of using it against the people of other countries.

Ms Squire

Does my right hon. Friend agree that what are at stake are not only the policy objectives of the United Kingdom and the United States but the authority of the United Nations? We have a stark choice: either we agree to face up to evil dictatorship and support the United Nations or we turn our back on ever trying to achieve human rights and world peace.

Mr. Cook

My hon. Friend is correct. This is not a confrontation between the UK and the US and Iraq; this is a confrontation between the United Nations and Iraq—and if Iraq were to win in this confrontation, the UN and the Security Council would have no authority in any future confrontation against any future dictator.

14. Mr. Amess

What recent representations he has received on the position of Kuwaiti nationals held in Iraq. [26444]

Mr. Fatchett

We take a keen interest in the issue of Kuwaiti detainees and play an active role in the tripartite commission. We continue to insist that Iraq provide full information on the whereabouts of the detainees. We assume that Saddam Hussein's recent offer to release Arab prisoners will include the more than 600 Kuwaiti detainees held in Iraq since the Gulf war. That would at last mean the end of their seven-year ordeal.

Mr. Amess

Notwithstanding his comments and in light of the Government's professed ethical foreign policy, does the Minister agree that the release of 600 Kuwaiti civilians—many of whom are women and children—held as prisoners of war in Iraq should be made a condition of removing sanctions, in addition to allowing the United Nations Special Commission's work of examining and destroying chemical and biological weapons?

Mr. Fatchett

The detainees' fate underlines the point made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and others during the exchange on the previous question. We know the record of Saddam Hussein as a dictator and the threat that he represents to others. We shall certainly continue to work through the tripartite commission to make the return of the Kuwaiti detainees to their families in Kuwait a priority. There is no question of that not being in line with an ethical foreign policy: there is nothing more ethical than ensuring that those detainees are returned to their families. We shall work towards that objective, which I am sure everyone shares.