HC Deb 27 November 2001 vol 375 cc825-6
7. Mrs. Betty Williams (Conwy)

If he will make a statement about his participation in the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Afghanistan. [15429]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw)

While at the UN, I spoke to the full Assembly on 11 November and subsequently at two Security Council meetings. I also held a number of meetings with Foreign Ministers, the UN Secretary-General and the Secretary-General's special representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi.

Mrs. Williams

In future discussions, will my right hon. Friend do all he can to ensure that full consideration is given to the women in Afghanistan, so that they are fully involved in international talks about a new Government; that the restoration of the rights of Afghan women is a high priority; and that boys and girls receive equal treatment when schools reopen?

Mr. Straw

Yes. The oppression of women was one of the most terrible aspects of the Taliban regime. All parties to the Bonn discussions are committed to restoring rights for women and I am pleased to tell my hon. Friend that three of the 28 delegates due to attend are women. That is not enough, but the proportion is greater than that of women MPs representing the Conservative party.

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell)

Following President Bush's comments yesterday, will the Secretary of State please tell the House what discussions he had at the UN about UN weapons inspections in Iraq? What information do the Government have about the situation there in respect of the production of weapons of mass destruction?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The question is about Afghanistan.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East)

Has my right hon. Friend seen the recent press reports about the upsurge in poppy field planting in Afghanistan in recent weeks? Will he enlist the support of colleagues in the UN to make it clear to whatever regime emerges in Afghanistan that poppy planting and the heroin trade that stems from it are wholly unacceptable?

Mr. Straw

I certainly will, and I have done so already. A key part of restoring the rule of law in Afghanistan is the eradication of poppy cultivation and the heroin trade. That forms a central part of all the discussions in which we are engaged.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)

Is it the intention of the Foreign Secretary, on behalf of the Government, that the major part of the planning for the overall reconstruction of Afghanistan be conducted through the UN, or does he envisage it being conducted through other organisations?

Mr. Straw

Overall supervision of the reconstruction of Afghanistan must he conducted under the aegis of the UN, providing the framework and umbrella for discussions. Of course, a great deal of action will be taken multilaterally and bilaterally lo support Afghanistan. As the hon. Gentleman is aware, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development is already in the vanguard in ensuring that there is additional support for Afghanistan and for Pakistan and Iran.

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