HC Deb 25 March 2003 vol 402 cc147-8
4. Mrs. Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside)

What assessment he has made of the links between the Iraqi regime and terrorism in the middle east. [104462]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Mike O'Brien)

The Iraqi regime has supported, trained and financed the Mujaheddin-e Khalq Organisation terrorist group and encouraged terrorism in the middle east for years, including assisting the murderous Abu Nidal group, the Palestinian Liberation group and Hamas, as well as making payments to the families of suicide bombers.

Mrs. Ellman

Does my hon. Friend accept that Saddam Hussein's payments of about $25,000 to the families of every successful suicide bomber, in highly publicised ceremonies involving the Palestinian Authority, indicates that Saddam Hussein is part of the problem and not part of the solution? Will he be urging Abu Mazen to sever ties with similar groups sponsored by countries such as Iran and Syria, to give peace and the road map a chance?

Mr. O'Brien

On my hon. Friend's final point, the new Palestinian Prime Minister designate, Abu Mazen, needs to be very clear in his condemnation of terrorism, and I believe that he will be. As for my hon. Friend's overall point, payments to suicide bombers and their families, or any encouragement for suicide bombers, is reprehensible. The Iraqi regime is clearly part of the problem. The regime has been directly responsible for helping to fuel the conflict in the middle east. The removal of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and the restoration of a stable and democratic Iraq will benefit the whole region. We also need to pursue a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an equally important precondition for long-term peace in the region.

Mr. Andrew Rosindell (Romford)

With potential terrorist attacks and also attacks by the Iraqi regime in the whole middle east region, will the Minister please urgently review the advice and support given to British citizens currently living in Kuwait? A constituent of mine has contacted me to say that the British embassy has failed to issue gas masks, while the French embassy has done so for its citizens. Could that matter be looked into?

Mr. O'Brien

We are giving clear advice to the various British citizens who are in the middle east. In terms of the use of various suits and gas masks, our view is that the best thing for citizens in the area who are concerned is either to leave the area or take other suitable precautions to put themselves in a place of safety. At this point there have been no chemical and biological weapons attacks, and we very much hope that there will be no such attacks.

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