HL Deb 17 February 1992 vol 535 cc990-2

3 p.m.

Lord Molloy asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they propose to take following Iraq's decision to break off talks with the United Nations concerning oil exports.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (The Earl of Caithness)

My Lords, we shall continue to work with other members of the Security Council for the implementation in full of all relevant resolutions, including Security Council Resolutions 706 and 712, which are mandatory. We shall maintain our humanitarian efforts to assist the civilian population of Iraq for whom Saddam Hussein shows callous disregard by his refusal to co-operate.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, but is it not a fact that the dictator in Iraq has literally got away with murder? He is now absolutely defying United Nations Resolution 207, which was designed to obtain Iraqi oil and to try to help the tens of thousands who have suffered from the Iraqi dictator's behaviour, and for humanitarian causes, such as providing medicine, clothes and food for those who have suffered so desperately under him. Is it not about time that we took some real action to rid ourselves and the world of that evil dictator?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the noble Lord is right to say that the Iraqis have walked out of the talks on United Nations Security Council Resolutions 706 and 712. The purpose of those resolutions was to allow humanitarian relief to Iraq to be funded by the sale of Iraqi oil to the tune of 1.6 billion dollars over a six-month period. It is Saddam Hussein who is causing the problem.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, is the United Nations resolution that deals with the disarmament and removal of nuclear facilities from Iraq being followed up?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, work is continuing. Twenty-five inspections have revealed an enormous covert nuclear weapons development programme, a biological research programme for military purposes, over 46,000 chemical munitions and 30 chemical warheads for ballistic missiles, super-gun assemblies, and other parts.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, is the Minister aware that many of us will be encouraged by what he has said about the British Government continuing humanitarian assistance on an international scale in every way that they can to help the civilian population in Iraq? Is he further aware that there is a rising tide of concern about the appalling tragedy that is taking place in that country, which is affecting men and women and especially children? Can he give us any further hope about whether, in spite of the difficulties over the sale of oil and the intransigence of Saddam Hussein, more humanitarian aid can be provided?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am grateful for that question from the right reverend Prelate. We are the fifth largest donor of aid to relieve the humanitarian problems in Iraq. If other countries contributed the same as us, the situation would be relieved. My right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development has proposed an international donor conference with the United Nations on 27th February in order to continue the effective co-ordination of the international response.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, will the Minister confirm that, in addition to all the tragedies that have been described by noble Lords, the blockade against the Kurds is continuing? Further to the question of the right reverend Prelate, could any further initiative be taken by Her Majesty's Government and other governments through the United Nations to try to bring those tragedies to an end?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I can confirm that the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos, is right that the blockade is continuing. That is exactly why my right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development has proposed the conference. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State will be raising precisely that issue in the Foreign Affairs Council today.

Lord Elton

My Lords, in answer to my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, perhaps I may reveal that enormous resources are being discovered. Are they being dismantled, destroyed or withdrawn? What is happening to them?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the destruction of chemical munitions and bulk agents has already begun. The IAEA is already preparing to remove all nuclear material that is covered by its safeguards.

Lord Ennals

My Lords, are the Government preparing to support the Pishdare plan to exploit oil resources in Kurdistan in Northern Iraq to finance humanitarian assistance to the Kurds?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, we are not prepared to support the plan as currently conceived. It would contravene the terms of Security Council Resolution 661 and the United Nations embargo against Iraq. Clearly, the right thing to do is for Iraq to return to the negotiating table to talk about Security Council Resolutions 706 and 712.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, does the Minster agree that we are talking this afternoon about 3 million Kurds and Shi'as who are literally starving and who have had an appalling winter, yet that evil dictator is simply cocking a snook at the United Nations? Would it not be far better if we had occupied Baghdad and controlled the whole situation, as happened when we went into Bonn and Berlin?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, the noble Lord asked an interesting question, but it is rather wide of that on the Order Paper. If he wishes to table such a question, I shall do my best to answer it.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, will the Minister comment on today's press report that emergency supplies and assistance are not getting through to the north on account of both the blockade and the severe weather conditions?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, there are certainly some appalling weather conditions in the north, and the blockade has restricted some supplies.

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