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Coalition Against Terrorism

5. Syd Rapson (Portsmouth, North): What assessment he has made of the continuing level of support by Muslim countries for the coalition against terrorism. [15427]

10. Laura Moffatt (Crawley): What assessment he has made of the continuing support of the Muslim countries for the coalition against terrorism. [15433]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): Muslim countries were among the first to condemn the 11 September attacks and support the

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campaign against terrorism. That support has strengthened further as they have witnessed the liberation of ordinary Afghans—fellow Muslims—oppressed so terribly and for so long by the Taliban.

Syd Rapson: I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware that in less than 30 years' time a quarter of the world's population will be Muslim? To gain their support, and more importantly, their trust, in our campaign against worldwide terrorism, a vital step must be the settlement of the middle east crisis. Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that everything humanly possible is being done to achieve that aim?

Mr. Bradshaw: Yes, the United Kingdom has been strongly engaged in trying to find a way forward in the middle east peace process. We welcome the statement made last week by United States Secretary of State Colin Powell, and his dispatch of the two envoys to Israel yesterday. We recognise the importance of a solution in the middle east in terms of public opinion in the Arab and Muslim worlds, and we recognise the importance of public opinion in the Arab and Muslim worlds not just in international relations, but in our domestic politics.

Laura Moffatt: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has clearly said that the actions of 11 September and associated activities are

I know that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has been keeping in close contact with Iran. Following recent visits, can my hon. Friend assure us that those views still prevail?

Mr. Bradshaw: Yes, I can. Many hon. Members will have been surprised by the strength of support for the campaign from some unlikely quarters, including Iran. Our relationships with Iran are extremely important. That is why my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has made two visits there in the past two months—the first visits by a British Foreign Secretary since the Iranian revolution. Iran has an important role to play, particularly in the future peaceful solution in Afghanistan.

Mr. Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife): How many of those Muslim countries would continue to support the coalition if military action were launched against Iraq, as has been foreshadowed in the past 24 hours, without incontrovertible evidence? Is it not likely that their support would simply melt away? Is it not the case that the further risk of military action against Iraq is that Saddam Hussein, as he did during the Gulf war, would launch missiles against Israel, which would feel compelled to retaliate, leading to the risk of conflagration throughout the middle east?

Mr. Bradshaw: I do not think that it is helpful to speculate about the possible expansion of the current military campaign and its effects on public opinion in the Muslim world. The UK Government have always made it clear that the campaign is targeted and specific, and that its aim is to bring to justice those responsible for the mass murder of 11 September. Of course there are further

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obligations on all countries—not just Iraq, but the United Kingdom—as a result of the two unanimous UN resolutions passed since 11 September.

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): While Pakistan's support for the coalition against terrorism is welcome, what assessment has the Minister made of the Pakistani intelligence service's continuing role in supporting terrorism in Kashmir?

Mr. Bradshaw: We have done our utmost to urge the Pakistani Government to cease any support that they might have given in the past to the terrorists to whom the hon. Gentleman refers, and to cease any support that Pakistan has given through its intelligence service to the Taliban. We believe that Pakistan has undergone a sea change in its approach to those two issues, and we will continue to press the Pakistani Government to continue along the right path.

Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North): Will the Government make it clear to our US allies that the support of Muslim and other countries has been dependent on action being commensurate and directly related to the atrocity on 11 September, and that, although there are problems relating to various other countries that the international community must address in various ways, injudicious military action could forfeit international support and would not have the unconditional support of the Government?

Mr. Bradshaw: People should not speculate about expanding the military campaign beyond bin Laden and al-Qaeda, in the absence of any evidence of any other state involvement. There is no evidence of any other state involvement, as far as we are aware. We have always made it clear that the military campaign is limited and specific. However, the United Nations resolutions passed unanimously since 11 September place serious obligations on a number of countries, including Iraq, and pretty stiff sanctions if they fail to fulfil them.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): The Minister may not wish to speculate, but speculation is widespread and obviously has an impact on Muslim opinion worldwide. Can we have an unambiguous statement from him that it is not the policy of Her Majesty's Government to extend the military action and conflict to other states and countries without unambiguous evidence to that effect?

Mr. Bradshaw: Yes.

Mrs. Alice Mahon (Halifax): I think that my hon. Friend has dodged around this issue. President Bush threatened Iraq yesterday with regard to the weapons inspections. Will my hon. Friend say unequivocally that we will not take part in bombing Iraq or any other Muslim country if America engages in bombing?

Mr. Bradshaw: I would point out to my hon. Friend that Iraq could very easily solve the problem by adhering to the demands that are made of it by the United Nations. If Iraq implemented the United Nations resolutions, it would not find itself with this problem. I repeat to my hon. Friend that the UK Government's position has been absolutely clear all along during the military campaign,

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which is directed specifically against those who are responsible for the mass murder of 11 September. There is no evidence of any other state involvement. In the absence of any such evidence, those military objectives remain as they have been all along.

Mr. Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton): In commenting on the Foreign Secretary's visit to Iran and Pakistan, it grieves me ever so slightly that I have to say once again that I think that he has been doing the right thing. However, the continuing support of Pakistan and other Muslim countries very much will now depend on what happens next. On 4 October, the Foreign Secretary said that

Notwithstanding the Minister's answer to the right hon. and learned Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell), will he tell the House which other countries are now under suspicion? Which countries might require action of any sort by the coalition so that the objectives laid out by the Prime Minister and President Bush will be met? Are there any, or are there none?

Mr. Bradshaw: I am afraid that I shall not read out a list of the countries that may or may not be involved in helping or supporting terrorist organisations within their borders. I point out to the hon. Gentleman, to whom I am grateful for his kind remarks about the activities of my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, that the UN resolutions place pretty stiff requirements on all countries, including the United Kingdom. Many of the complaints that we get from countries throughout the world suggest that we have not been terribly good in the past at extraditing or dealing with suspected terrorists in this country. We all have obligations and duties under the UN resolutions, and I think that it would be invidious to start naming names.

Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West): Does my hon. Friend agree that, if we are to maintain the support of the Muslim countries, we must deal with the problems that concern them, such as Kashmir and the middle east? Does he also agree that the speech made by Colin Powell last week was very important in terms of ensuring that that is done? If we can keep the United States Government engaged, a strong signal will be sent to the middle east. Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the most important things that Secretary of State Powell said was that the US stands ready to contribute towards an effective mechanism to monitor the peace between the two sides? Will my hon. Friend encourage him to move forward very quickly on that issue?

Mr. Bradshaw: Yes, I would agree with everything that my hon. Friend says. We do indeed encourage the Americans to move forward on that issue. However, I should say as a warning that while we can address all the political and regional grievances in the world, history has unfortunately shown us that the world occasionally throws up madmen and despots who have to be stood up to.

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