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Mr. Straw: I have set out before, as has the Prime Minister, our approach to the situation in Iraq. I was pleased that we achieved a much better roll-over resolution to United Nations Security Council resolution 1284, which is the current sanctions resolution, with a clear undertaking from Russia that there would be an enhanced sanctions regime with a proper goods review list within the next six months. The key to Iraq coming back into the civilised world is for Iraq to implement the undertakings imposed on it by the UN Security Council resolutions, including the re-admission of weapons inspectors. I say strongly to my hon. Friend that Iraq

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continues to pose a very serious threat to Arab states, as well as to the state of Israel, by its continued unlawful development of weapons of mass destruction.

Mr. David Tredinnick (Bosworth): What impact does the Foreign Secretary think the continuous building of Israeli settlements on Arab territories is having on moderate Arab opinion in this ghastly period? Does he think that it makes the task of the Palestinian authorities any easier when attacks are made on the police, police barracks and those who are supposed to be in authority? Is not Israel in a cleft stick, in that if it takes such action, it weakens the very authority that it is inviting to take tougher action against extremists?

Mr. Straw: Successive United Kingdom Governments have said that they do not agree with the building of settlements inside the occupied territories. The future of those settlements must be one part of any peace process, but to get there—to achieve a sense of justice for the Palestinians, alongside what is equally and desperately needed: a sense of peace and security for Israelis—there must be an end to the violence, terrorism and vetoes on any kind of peace process. That requires of the Palestinian Authority the kind of action that I described.

Mr. Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton): Is my right hon. Friend aware that the deaths of innocent Jewish teenagers at the hands of Palestinian terrorists, and the deaths of innocent Palestinian teenagers—of whom we might have heard a little more this afternoon—at the hands of the Israeli army, are both parts of the terrible tit-for-tat that is going on in what is called the holy land?

Will my right hon. Friend bear it in mind that the Labour party members of the Israeli Cabinet walked out of the Cabinet meeting that decided that the Palestinian Authority was an entity that supports terrorism and must be dealt with accordingly? Will he bear it in mind that Yossi Beilin, the ex-Labour Minister who was the architect of the Oslo accord, wrote yesterday in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot:

Will my right hon. Friend bear it in mind that a Labour Member of the Israeli Parliament, Colette Avital, a former ambassador to Portugal, said yesterday:

Should not this Labour Government be listening to those Labour voices from Israel?

Mr. Straw: We certainly listen to those Labour voices. I spoke directly to Shimon Peres on Sunday in answer to a phone call. I can think of no one who has sought more to secure peace in Israel and the occupied territories, but his mood was one of gloom and despair about the way in which these terrorists had undermined his efforts on the path to peace. My right hon. Friend asked me by implication whether we share the view expressed by Prime Minister Sharon, which is that the Palestinian Authority is an entity that supports terrorism. As I made clear earlier, that is not a description that we have ever used or would use. At the same time—I shall labour the point—it is extremely important that the Palestinian

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Authority does more to contain the terrorists who are operating from within the occupied territories. As it does more in that respect, any suggestions that it is supporting terrorism will dissolve.

Tony Baldry (Banbury): When does the Foreign Secretary believe that Palestine will be able to exist within secure and recognised boundaries?

Mr. Straw: I do not think that it is possible for anybody to put a time scale on that. It depends on when it is possible for the good people on both sides to exert power and come together to work on Tenet and Mitchell and then on a proper peace process. As I said, what needs to be done is pretty straightforward, but getting there is much more difficult.

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield): I am not aware of any hon. Member who has sought to excuse the suicide bombings at the weekend or subsequently. They deserve to be condemned.

May I draw my right hon. Friend's attention to an e-mail that I received today from somebody in Wadi Fouquin, a Palestinian village next to the Israeli border? Its road has been cut off and people cannot get in or out. The writer of the e-mail referred to a pregnant woman who may go into labour, but the village has no clinic and the people there simply do not know where or whether she will be able to have her baby safely. We need to say to the Israelis very clearly that the action that they are taking is disproportionate and is punishing a people collectively, which is against the Geneva convention. If we are to ask President Arafat to crack down on terrorists among the Palestinians, bombing the very security apparatus that could achieve that result is not a good way to go about doing so.

Mr. Straw: The Palestinian people have suffered grievously since the territories were occupied and they continue to suffer. As many of my hon. Friends and Opposition Members have pointed out, a large number of entirely innocent deaths have occurred among Palestinians as well; indeed, a greater number of deaths have occurred. None the less, we must recognise that in the past six months, the Israeli Government have taken steps to work towards a peaceful solution. Yes, I understand the point that my hon. Friend makes. There have been two recent windows for progress. Tourism Minister Zeevi was assassinated after a period of quiet that had lasted 10 days. The process was disrupted, after which there was continuing lower-level violence. Now there is a situation in which, notwithstanding the Powell speech on 19 November, the appointment of Zinni and Burns and the existence of a better prospect than there has been for many months of a process leading back towards Tenet and Mitchell, that effort and those chances and hopes have been vetoed again by terrorists. Any state that is in that situation is bound to take action—yes, proportionate action—to deal with it.

Mr. Andrew MacKay (Bracknell): In most certainly not condoning Israel's ill-targeted reprisals after the weekend's wicked events, may I nevertheless ask the Foreign Secretary whether he can confirm that Hamas is largely funded by sources in Iran, and, if that is so,

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what action we are taking against those sources and the Government of Iran, as a leading member of the international coalition against terrorism?

Mr. Straw: I shall write to the right hon. Gentleman with the information that is publicly available about exact sources of finance for Hamas and other terrorist organisations. In Prime Minister's questions, my right hon. Friend answered a question about whether we should have better relations with Iran, notwithstanding some of the associations that have been mentioned. I share the Prime Minister's view that we are better able to achieve peace in the region by dialogue. I visited Iran twice in the past three months, and I make no apology for that. On my first visit in particular, I spoke to the Iranian Government about what we believe to be their support for terrorist organisations elsewhere in the middle east. That dialogue and engagement must continue.

John Austin (Erith and Thamesmead): Although we must be even-handed in our condemnation of indiscriminate acts of violence that kill innocent civilians, whether by Islamic Jihad, Hamas or the Israeli state, is it right to base our foreign policy on even-handedness when one of the most powerful and heavily armed states in the world occupies its neighbour in contravention of international law and United Nations resolutions? With hindsight, does my right hon. Friend believe that we were wrong to abstain on the proposal for an international peace force—a protection force—earlier this year and that the United States was wrong to veto it? Does he agree that we might not be in our current predicament if that force had been established? Will he reconsider the matter now?

Mr. Straw: I make no apology to my hon. Friend for trying to be even-handed in my approach to foreign policy. That does not mean that one produces an equally balanced statement every day; it depends on the exact circumstances. However, if even-handedness means securing the objective of the people of the state of Israel living in peace and security alongside a viable state of Palestine, which also enjoys peace and security, I plead guilty to it. Such an approach is the only way to achieve peace in the region.

Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on the fairness and consistency of his statement and answers today. I remind him and the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead (John Austin) that when a United Nations force was ordered out in 1967, a chain of events began with threats to Israel and culminated in the occupation of what are today the occupied territories.

The Foreign Secretary correctly differentiates between the actions of bin Laden and Arafat. However, perhaps a better parallel is between the actions of bin Laden's suicide bombers and those of Hamas's suicide bombers. When we consider the measures that we have taken against bin Laden, is not it correct that similarly tough measures against Hamas and its suicide bombers should be undertaken by the one democratic state in the area: Israel?

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