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Sir Dudley Smith (Warwick and Leamington): Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware of the invaluable role played by the Western European Union in securing the blockade on the Adriatic, and--where the embargo was concerned--in policing the Danube in Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria? These countries have been helpful. Is he further aware that the WEU is ready and willing to do whatever tasks are assigned to it in the new and much more hopeful situation?

Mr. Rifkind: My hon. Friend is right. The WEU has provided useful assistance, and there may be further opportunities for the WEU to provide practical support to the efforts of the international community. That is something that we warmly welcome.

Mr. Robert N. Wareing (Liverpool, West Derby): Does the Foreign Secretary really believe that, in a short space of time, refugees can go back to towns such as Srebrenica? Can he tell the House what is to happen to the 6,000 regular Croatian troops presently stationed in Bosnia? Will they be withdrawn? Does he honestly believe that an imposed peace can ever be a permanent peace?

Mr. Rifkind: Naturally we expect that all troops from outside Bosnia will return home in the near future, and that would apply to regular troops from countries such as Croatia. The hon. Gentleman is correct to emphasise the difficulties for refugees trying to return to areas that remain occupied by another community. That will be a difficult task in Bosnia, just as it has been difficult in many other parts of the world where there have been political settlements, but not of a form that makes the return of refugees as easy as we would wish. That will be one of the tasks to work on. I doubt whether we will achieve the success that we would like, but we must try to achieve whatever is possible in that sphere.

Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland and Lonsdale): Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, following political agreement and with NATO troops on the ground, we are entering a particularly dangerous period for us all, not least because of Russian participation in the area? If the agreement, like so many others, is torn up and more fighting starts, to what extent will NATO troops be prepared to move from a peacekeeping role into a role of peace enforcement?

Mr. Rifkind: The Russian involvement so far has been helpful and valuable because it has enabled the Security Council to speak with a single voice and enabled the contact group to operate in the ways that led to the negotiated agreement announced yesterday. My right hon. Friend speculates about the possibility of the settlement disintegrating. The question that has to be asked is whether that might happen as a result of the actions of one party or as a result of the general disinclination of all the parties.

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Clearly, if one party did not fulfil its obligations, the whole weight of the international community would seek to ensure that it respected the treaties into which it had voluntarily entered. If there was a lack of will on the part of all the parties, the whole settlement would inevitably collapse and we would be back to the situation in Bosnia that we have seen in the past four years.

Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford): Although naturally we welcome the statement by the Secretary of State, we none the less share the caution that he has emphasised. We on the Ulster Unionist Bench in particular note the enthusiasm of the Secretary of State for the total exclusion from all-party talks and from any future democratic developments in Bosnia of those who during the past four years have been involved in paramilitary and terrorist activities.

The Secretary of State stressed the importance of the new central parliament and Government. Will that parliament and Government be in control of the armies within Bosnia, or will two separate armies continue to exist under separate Governments in Bosnia? Can the Secretary of State give us some guidance as to the total number of United Kingdom forces present in Bosnia under both the United Nations and NATO?

Mr. Rifkind: Those excluded from political and public life will be limited to those who are indicted as war criminals. They will not include those who come within the slightly wider definition that the right hon. Gentleman suggested. We look forward to the day when there will be a gradual reintegration of the military forces in Bosnia. That cannot happen immediately. It will take time, as it has taken in other parts of the world where similar problems have existed. We have seen in South Africa how the competing armies have been gradually integrated into a single new South African defence force. I do not say that that will happen, but it must be the objective that we work towards in Bosnia.

We are still giving consideration to the precise details of the British contribution in Bosnia. It is likely to have two elements: the forces which are currently there under UNPROFOR, which may become part of a new NATO-led force, and the headquarters of the whole NATO force provided by the allied rapid reaction corps based in Germany. Britain is a framework nation of that and, therefore, a significant proportion of headquarters manpower will be from the United Kingdom.

Mr. Jonathan Aitken (South Thanet): Will my right hon. and learned Friend confirm that the American War Powers Act requires clear and unambiguous congressional commitment to the proposal that a large number of American ground troops should be sent to Bosnia? Is he confident that the commitment will be given by Congress? Is he aware that there are a great many ambiguities in the statements of the American Administration, which need to be clarified? For example, Secretary of Defence William Perry has spoken of the American peacekeepers leaving within one year, which may seem to some of us a remarkably short haul. Would he confirm that, before British troops are committed, Congress must be on board for what will be a long and perilous haul?

Mr. Rifkind: I certainly confirm my right hon. Friend's final point. In my opening remarks, I said that British forces would enter and leave at the same time as United States forces. There can be no question of any

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different approach. It is for the United States Government to determine the constitutional requirements within the United States for the deployment of American forces. The President has already indicated that he intends to enter into early consultations with both Houses of Congress, and it is worth recollecting that the vote in the House of Representatives a few days ago did not reject American participation, but emphasised the need for that House to agree to such a proposition and for that case to be argued. The President has indicated that he accepts total responsibility, to ensure that American forces are deployed. We wish him well in that task and will give him our full support.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): Is the Foreign Secretary aware that, given fair wind, the treaty might last long enough to carry it beyond the American presidential elections in about a year from now and, perhaps, just beyond the British general election? Will he also comment on the fact that it is rather curious that, in this so-called peace treaty, no matter how long or temporary, as opposed to the one in Ireland, there is no talk of decommissioning; in fact, there is the opposite--there is going to be a lifting of the arms embargo? How does he manage to approve those double standards?

Mr. Rifkind: The hon. Gentleman is wrong. It is likely that arms control discussions will take place, hosted internationally, to ensure that there is a progressive reduction of military equipment within Bosnia to the amount that is reasonably required by any country in the modern world.

Mr. Nigel Forman (Carshalton and Wallington): Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that many Conservative Members will want him and his colleagues to keep the duration and nature of our commitment in the former Yugoslavia closely under review? Can he confirm that the likely number of British troops committed to that unfortunate territory may initially be about 13,000? Can he tell the House, more clearly than he has been able to do so far, exactly what they will be doing? Will they be there in support of the civilian power? If so, which is it, and what is the parallel with the normal support for the civilian power in places such as Northern Ireland?

Mr. Rifkind: I can give my hon. Friend certain additional information. Certainly, in the first few weeks, the prime purpose of the implementation force will be to monitor the implementation of the settlement. It provides for the forces of the Bosnian federation and Republika Srpska to withdraw from the existing confrontation line and for a safety zone to be inserted between those two confrontation areas to prevent a resumption of hostilities. Part of the responsibilities of the force will be to man that area and thereby ensure that what is a ceasefire becomes a permanent peace. They will also have responsibility for much of the monitoring of what is happening in regard to the other parts of the agreement, much of which will require civilian assistance, but may also have a military component.

On the size of the British force, my hon. Friend mentioned 13,000. I would not want to be committed to a specific figure, but I do not expect it to be significantly different from that level.

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