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11. Ms Christine Russell (City of Chester): If he will initiate new steps to improve conflict resolution procedures in Africa. [95041]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Peter Hain): We are working closely with the Organisation of African Unity and the United Nations to find peaceful and lasting solutions to Africa's current conflicts, especially in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Sudan and Angola.

Ms Russell: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. I am sure that he is aware of the recent UN report highlighting the fact that 200 million people in Africa are undernourished and that Africa is the only continent where poverty is expected to increase in the next century. As his reply suggests, he will also be aware that thousands of women and children have recently lost their lives in the Angolan civil war. Can he expand his comments a little, particularly on the situation in Angola and how our Government are helping African countries to tackle their internal disputes and border conflicts?

Mr. Hain: After years of policy neglect of Africa and its needs by the Conservative Government, we have put African policy to the top of the international agenda. We are working with other European countries, the United States and, in particular, France to forge a new African agenda. I agree with my hon. Friend that the situation in Angola is dire and continues to be so, which is a reason why our decision to lead the world in banning landmines was absolutely vital. We shall continue to press for tight

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sanctions on UNITA as well as on the Angolan Government to make sure that they invest in their people and ensure that Government support goes to them and not into the back pockets of an elite at the top.

Dr. Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park): Does the Minister agree that the proliferation of arms in Africa is a major cause of instability, which leads to conflict? What progress has he made with our European partners on the control of arms brokers' activities?

Mr. Hain: The hon. Lady raises an important issue, because Africa is plagued by millions of small arms, which destroy countries and promote internal conflict. We are working with our European partners to deal with that problem. I particularly welcome the west African small arms moratorium. A few weeks ago in Kenya I discussed with the Foreign Minister that country's initiative to host a conference next year to tackle the problem of small arms in east and central Africa. We shall work with Kenya and other African countries to achieve that.

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington): Does the Minister agree that arms control is the key to conflict resolution? Does he further agree that we need greater co-ordination between the Foreign Office, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of Defence so that the Government may make some progress on their stated aims on those issues?

Mr. Hain: I agree with my hon. Friend, which is why we are co-ordinating our policy closely with both the MOD and the DTI. We are also working to promote conflict resolution and to provide peacekeeping support in Sierra Leone and, when it is opportune to do so, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Peace and stability are vital if the conflicts in that region are to be resolved, and we shall do everything that we can to achieve that.

Reparations (Germany)

12. Mr. Howard Flight (Arundel and South Downs): If he will make a statement on Her Majesty's Government's policy towards reparations being paid to those who were used as slave labour in camps operated by Nazi Germany during the Second World War. [95042]

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Keith Vaz): We welcome the German Government's decision to organise, with German business, a fund to provide compensation for former forced and slave labourers who suffered under the Nazi regime. We are in touch with the German and other Governments, and have made it clear that we would expect equal access to the fund, when it is set up, for UK citizens who are eligible for such compensation.

Mr. Flight: The Government will be aware that there are between 500,000 and 1 million such slave labour survivors from the war. The German companies involved have made one somewhat derisory offer so far, and another offer is expected in the near future. Will the Government use all their endeavours to ensure that that offer is fair? Will they very diplomatically suggest to the

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new German ambassador that, if Germany wants Britain to forget the past and to look to the present and the future, this is just the sort of injustice that needs to be settled?

Mr. Vaz: As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are not directly involved in the negotiations between the American lawyers and the German Government. As he says, the Germans made an offer of $2 billion, which was rejected by the Americans, and those negotiations are on-going. We have made it plain to all those involved that we take a keen interest in those matters. Indeed, the UK has taken a lead on this issue. In December 1997, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary convened the Nazi gold conference, which resulted in the UK donating £1 million to that cause--18 other countries donated a total of $60 million--and that money has been allocated. On this issue, if the interests of UK citizens are at stake, we shall make our views perfectly plain. We welcome what Chancellor Schroder has done. It is an important step forward and we hope that the negotiations will be successful.


13. Mr. Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington): If he will make a statement on the progress of discussions with the UN Security Council with regard to Iraq. [95043]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Robin Cook): Britain continues to take the lead in brokering agreement on a new Security Council resolution on Iraq. We have made steady progress over six months of painstaking diplomacy, and our proposals are now supported by nine of the 10 non-permanent members. We have reached agreement on most of the earlier detailed points of difference, including those among permanent members of the Council. The resolution would provide for a major improvement in the humanitarian condition of the Iraqi people and the restoration of inspection and monitoring on the ground in Iraq, and would set out what Iraq must do to secure first the suspension, and then the lifting of sanctions. We believe that the revised draft provides the best basis for restoring consensus on Iraq within the Security Council.

Mr. Brake: I thank the Secretary of State for his response. Will he explain why the negotiations are taking so long? Is he confident that our proposals, if adopted, will begin to reduce the number of child deaths in Iraq, which have risen from 56 per 1,000 in 1989 to 131 per 1,000 in the period 1994-99?

Mr. Cook: I must be honest with the hon. Gentleman and tell him that these negotiations are taking some time because we are trying to broker agreement between member states that have different perspectives on this matter. We are nearly there. We have worked hard, and it would be wrong to rush the introduction of the resolution until there is consensus rather than division.

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there will be a significant increase in immediate humanitarian funds available to Iraq. With co-operation, there is the prospect

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of an increase in oil output as a result of the provision for investment by the oil industry in repairing Iraq's oil infrastructure.

The main culprit for the poor state of child health in Iraq is Saddam Hussein. It is striking to note that the child death rates are much higher in the parts of Iraq controlled by Saddam Hussein than they are in the areas of northern Iraq where the United Nations have intervened. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley): My right hon. Friend may be aware of the important conference in New York this weekend organised by the United States Government. It was attended by 400 Iraqi opposition members from all over the world, who discussed the problems in Iraq. American politicians made their strongest statement yet on the indictment and prosecution of Saddam Hussein and his regime before an international criminal tribunal. Ambassador Scheffer, the ambassador for war crimes, said that there was no reason why the UN Security Council should not actively pursue that matter right away as there was no need to wait. Does my right hon. Friend agree with that view, and will we take up that call for Saddam Hussein's indictment and prosecution at the UN Security Council as soon as possible?

Mr. Cook: I applaud my hon. Friend's work on the indictment campaign, for which she has had the full support of the Foreign Office. A war crimes tribunal on Iraq would require consensus in the Security Council. We would be willing to support any realistic proposal that had a prospect of success, but we do not at present detect a consensus in the Security Council for a war crimes tribunal on Iraq. For the time being, I am anxious not to divert our diplomatic energy away from securing the resolution on humanitarian relief and the inspection regime on the ground in Iraq.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): Saddam Hussein continues to pose a threat to security and peace in the middle east. What is the Foreign Secretary's assessment of where the Iraqi arms programme has got to in the absence of the UNSCOM inspection programme?

Mr. Cook: As the hon. Gentleman may know, it is difficult to be certain about what is happening on the ground in Iraq. That is why our resolution provides for the return of inspection and monitoring on the ground, and sets out a road map by which Iraq can secure the suspension of sanctions by co-operating with that inspection. However, we have no reason to believe that, over the months since Operation Desert Fox, the picture has changed radically. Saddam Hussein was trying to acquire a chemical and biological capability. Operation Desert Fox set back his capacity to deliver that capability.

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