HC Deb 27 January 2004 vol 417 cc161-2
17. Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West) (Con)

What discussions he has had with his United States counterpart regarding the possibility of early elections in Iraq. [150703]

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

I have frequent and regular conversations with the United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell, at which all aspects of policy relating to Iraq are discussed, including how best to establish a transitional Government.

Mr. Swayne

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that Ayatollah Sistani is held in great respect by the vast majority of the Shi'a community and that he has hitherto been supportive of the coalition? Does he agree that the last thing that we want is to find ourselves at odds with the principal beneficiaries of our liberation?

Mr. Straw

The hon. Gentleman is entirely correct to say that Ayatollah Ali Sistani is held in the highest possible respect by the vast majority of Shi'a. Of course we try to work collaboratively with him and his representatives, but we obviously must also take account of the interests of the Sunni and the Kurds.