HC Deb 16 April 2002 vol 383 cc448-51
4. Ms Bridget Prentice (Lewisham, East)

If he will make a statement on the state of the international coalition against terrorism. [45519]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw)

The international coalition remains strong. Governments all over the world have taken steps in compliance with United Nations resolution 1373 to tackle terrorism. Afghanistan has been liberated from the Taliban and much of the al-Qaeda network has been destroyed. However, all Governments can and should do more to address terrorism and the conditions that cause it.

Ms Prentice

During his visit to the middle east, is Secretary of State Powell not only holding discussions about the disaster between Israel and Palestine, but reminding our coalition partners of their responsibility to tackle international terrorism?

Mr. Bradshaw

Yes. That message is constantly conveyed, not only by the American Secretary of State but by my right hon. Friends the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk)

Does the Minister agree that although the IRA is officially on ceasefire, it continues to represent an international terrorist threat? One has only to consider what happened in Colombia and elsewhere. Will the hon. Gentleman speak to his counterpart in America to ensure that the IRA is fully proscribed there?

Mr. Bradshaw

The IRA remains a proscribed organisation under section 2 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Since 11 September, we have received excellent co-operation from the United States authorities on the matter, and we expect that to continue.

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

What quantity of depleted-uranium weapons were used in the conflict in Afghanistan by British or American forces? What is the latest estimate of the number of civilians who died during the bombing campaign?

Mr. Bradshaw

I am not aware of any depleted uranium used by British forces in Afghanistan. I cannot speak on behalf of another country. My hon. Friend should treat with extreme caution the claims of civilian casualties made by the Taliban, whose unreliability was shown throughout the campaign. They tried to weave a tissue of lies in their press conferences in Pakistan.

Mr. David Chidgey (Eastleigh)

Does the Minister agree that the horrific events that are unfolding in Jenin seriously threaten the continued existence of the coalition against terrorism? Does he further agree that one of the first actions of the International Criminal Court should be to launch a full investigation into possible war crimes in that territory and bring the perpetrators to justice?

Mr. Bradshaw

I am sorry to tell the hon. Gentleman that the International Criminal Court does not operate retrospectively and it will therefore not be able to take the action that he would like. However, I agree that recent action by the Israeli defence force in the occupied territories has been unhelpful in the global campaign against terrorism. We share the hon. Gentleman's anxiety about the worrying reports from Jenin and expect the Israeli Government to grant immediate access to all international non-governmental organisations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, so that a full investigation can take place. We shall have to wait and see about any action after that.

Mr. Jim Cousins (Newcastle upon Tyne, Central)

May I remind my hon. Friend that, arising out of coalition action in Afghanistan, a handful of British citizens have been detained for many weeks in Camp X-ray in Cuba by one of our coalition partners? Their status has not been determined, no charges have been brought and there seems no prospect of a trial with any jurisdiction that we would recognise. The first duty in the exercise of British power is to defend the lives and liberties of British citizens, no matter how misguided they may have been.

Mr. Bradshaw

I accept some of what my hon. Friend says, but he should not forget that the detainees could face extremely serious charges. He is wrong to suggest that the Americans have not defined their status; they have. On two visits to Guantanamo Bay by British officials, they were perfectly satisfied that the detainees were being treated in accordance with international human rights norms.

Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton)

Following the answer that the Minister gave a moment ago, what is his latest assessment of the locations to which al-Qaeda terrorists might now have dispersed? In particular, given that Yemen is probably one of the easiest countries in which such people can hide, what discussions has he had with the United States about the co-operation being given to the international coalition by President Ali Abdullah Saleh?

Mr. Bradshaw

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Although we have had a great deal of success in destroying the al-Qaeda network in Afghanistan, we are still extremely worried about the networks that persist in parts of Afghanistan, across the border in Pakistan and in a number of other countries including Yemen and Somalia. We are satisfied with the co-operation that we have been receiving from the Yemeni Government. Indeed, many Governments around the world have got their act together in the wake of 11 September, and are doing extremely important work to counter the terrorism threat.

Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

Would my hon. Friend like to reflect on the likely reaction of our Arab friends in the international coalition when they see American Secretary of State Colin Powell delaying a meeting with Chairman Arafat because of one suicide bombing, which, regrettably, killed six people, while on the same day sharing a platform with Prime Minister Sharon at the same time as Israeli troops were in the refugee camps murdering hundreds of people? If we are going to hold this international coalition together, must we not be clear that we condemn Israeli state terrorism just as strongly as we condemn suicide bombing?

Mr. Bradshaw

I have to tell my hon. Friend that there is no such thing as state terrorism. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish!"] In international law, there is no such thing. I have already told my hon. Friend that we are extremely concerned about reports of what went on in Jenin, but he is wrong to be critical of Colin Powell's mission. That mission should be welcomed on both sides of the House as a vital and timely contribution to a peace process in the middle east that we should all support.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)

I should say to the Minister that most Members of the House can recognise state terrorism when they see it or read about it.

So that we may estimate the strength, breadth and endurance of the international coalition against terrorism, will the Minister tell us which of its members—with the exception of the United States and Britain—would support military action against Iraq without a new specific motion of the Security Council of the United Nations?

Mr. Bradshaw

The whole international community, led by the United Nations, has made specific demands on Iraq for it to comply with its obligations under numerous UN resolutions, when it was in breach of the ceasefire agreement reached after the Gulf war. I am not going to speculate on which nations might be willing to take possible military' action, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that they all feel as strongly as we do about the need for Iraq to comply.

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