HC Deb 11 April 2000 vol 348 cc176-7
9. Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington)

When he next intends to visit the Gulf states to discuss the future of Iraq. [117175]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Robin Cook)

We have regular dialogue with countries in the region on Iraq. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain were all helpful in securing agreement in the Security Council to resolution 1284, drafted by the United Kingdom. Every country in the Gulf supports the implementation of that resolution, which unilaterally removes any ceiling on oil exports by Iraq and offers the suspension of sanctions in return for progress on disarmament of weapons of mass destruction. I regret that Iraq has yet to say whether it will take up that prospect of an end to sanctions.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

In so far as the United Nations has miserably failed to enforce its own resolutions and not stopped sanction busting by Saddam Hussein, enabling him to raise the money to fund his illegal regime, could we not consider a change in policy away from the enforcement of sanctions, which some of us have supported through thick and thin for nearly 10 years, towards a policy of indicting Saddam Hussein in the international court for war crimes, murder, genocide and crimes against humanity? Should not that be the new approach?

Mr. Cook

No international court would be competent to pursue those charges. We could pursue them only through a United Nations Security Council resolution to establish a special tribunal on Iraq. As I have said before, I see no realistic prospect of our obtaining agreement to such a resolution. Because of that, Britain was in the lead in supporting the formation of an International Criminal Court, which would have prosecutors who could decide for themselves who should be brought before the court, and which would end the arrangement by which special UN clearance was needed for anybody to be indicted. Once we have such a court, the way will be clear to proceed against dictators such as Saddam in the way my hon. Friend wishes.

Mr. Jonathan Sayeed (Mid-Bedfordshire)

In the meantime, as the right hon. Gentleman is aware, there has been a sharp increase in the smuggling of oil by Iraq. What practical steps are being taken to stop that?

Mr. Cook

The United States and United Kingdom navies operate in the Gulf and have carried out some successful operations, including one recently against oil smuggling. The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. There is no reason to smuggle oil out of Iraq. As a result of the recent resolution, Saddam can legitimately export all the oil that he wants. The only reason he chooses to smuggle some of it is that he does not want to be held to account for the money that he receives for that oil. He does not want to put it towards children's food, hospitals and medicines for his people. He wants to use it to support his military. That is the only reason for the smuggling.

Ms Oona King (Bethnal Green and Bow)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, while we can and must target sanctions more effectively—I hope that he will have recourse to the report by the International Development Committee on that subject—the fact remains that it is Saddam Hussein himself who bears responsibility for the plight of the Iraqi people? If he wished to take up the opportunity to exchange oil for supplies and humanitarian relief, he could.

Mr. Cook

At present, Iraq is exporting a volume of oil roughly equivalent to the volume exported by Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. It has just been announced that Iraq will increase its production by another 700,000 barrels a day, which will bring its exports above those of Iran. Potentially, $10 billion is available for humanitarian purposes in Iraq. In those circumstances, I find it hard to understand why people in Iraq are going hungry and are short of medicines. The only reason for that is the priorities of Saddam Hussein, not the sanctions.

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