Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)|
MP AND MR
WEDNESDAY 5 DECEMBER 2001
40. Just to follow on which is related but not
related, if you see what I mean. There have been suggestions in
the press that whilst immediately following September 11 Britain
and the Prime Minister in particular were very much in the lead
in recognising its own strategic interests and that very much
strengthened our relationship with America, subsequent eventsnot
least the fact these talks on the future of Afghanistan were held
in Bonnshow that kind of immediate role is somehow receding.
(Mr Straw) For the United Kingdom?
(Mr Straw) Right.
42. I just wonder what your view is on that?
(Mr Straw) I am surprised by the implication of your
question because I do not think it is true. We wanted the discussions
on the future of Afghanistan to take place within the auspices
of the United Nations and sponsored the UNSCR resolution to provide
that. We have taken a leading role in the Security Council with
the other permanent members but I think most of the other members
would say that they recognise that Sir Jeremy Greenstock, our
Ambassador to the UN, has often been in the lead on all of these
issues, as he has on many others. The fact that he was made Chairman
of the Terrorism Committee was a great personal tribute to him
as well as a compliment to the work of the United Kingdom. Now,
if you are going to have the United Nations acting as the broker
and midwife for a process of an interim authority and then of
government, they have to do it, and other countries, including
permanent members of the Security Council, have to support that
but not get in the way of that process, and that is what we have
sought to do. We have done a great deal of work behind the scenes,
first of all much earlier in proposing that the Secretary-General
should appoint a Special Representative, happily he did that very
quickly, providing Lakhdar Brahimi with as much support as we
could. I think we were the first country to identify and appoint
a senior diplomat to assist in the reconstruction process, in
our case Robert Cooper, who has quickly earned a very high reputation
at the United Nations with Lakhdar Brahimi and Kofi Annan and
he has been in Bonn all week. In addition to that, we were, I
think, the first country to establish a representative in Kabul.
Stephen Evans went in there as soon as it was remotely safe for
him to do so. We have been there at every point and behind the
scenes, for example, I have had myself a series of conversations
with Dr Abdullah Abdullah, with the Russian Foreign Minister and
the Iranian Foreign Minister, to try and ensure that the Northern
Alliance were positioned correctly in these talks so that they
received recognition for their role but not to the point where
other members of other delegations could not be accommodated within
the constitution. I think we have worked as we should do at supporting
the United Nations' led role actively but not getting in its way.
43. I did take up the suggestion by reading
it in the foreign press.
(Mr Straw) In the foreign press.
Sir John Stanley
44. Foreign Secretary, is there going to be
a second phase in the war against terrorism beyond Afghanistan?
(Mr Straw) The war against terrorism in the general
sense is going to go on and it needs to because we need to ensure
the kind of threat that was before the world on 11 September cannot
take place again. If you ask in terms of a second phase will we
continue to identify serious terrorist threats internationally
and take action against them, yes. If you are asking me about
will military action be taken against particular targets, I am
not willing to speculate on that with apologies, Sir John.
45. No need to apologise, I am delighted that
you have answered in those terms. The last thing I would expect
you to do is to speculate on future military options in this particular
forum. Foreign Secretary, the Prime Minister has given a clear
statement that in the further development of the war against terrorism
to a second phase he has said and I quotethis is an interview
in The Independent on Sunday on 2 December"Nothing
will happen without consultation with allies, it will be done
in a very considered way". I would like to ask you, if I
may, whether you can assure the Committee that the consideration
that will be given in that consultation process will be rather
more lengthy than has sometimes occurred in the past with our
American friends? I am thinking particularly of the occasion of
the US invasion of Grenada when your predecessor as Foreign Secretary
gave an assurance to the House one afternoon that there was going
to be no American invasion of Grenada. The invasion took place
over night and the then Foreign Secretary had to make something
of an apology to the House the following afternoon. Can we have
your assurance that when the Prime Minister refers to consultation
in a very considered way that is a clear assurance to the Government
of this country that there will be full consideration over a reasonable
length of time?
(Mr Straw) Yes. I cannot give you an absolutely iron
guarantee that I could not be placed in such a similarly difficult
position at some stage in the future on some issue but on the
specific thing, Sir John, there is already a great deal of considered
consultation going on. It has to be said that President Bush has
throughout, from 11 September, taken very great care to consult
allies about action which needs to be taken and has shown in my
judgment very great statesmanship about this. I have no reason
to think this will not continue. I knowbecause I knowthat
there is detailed consultation already taking place.
46. President Bush has made a very forthright
public statement that the UN Weapons Inspectors must be returned
(Mr Straw) Yes.
47. Does the British Government take the same
unequivocal clear view as the American Government?
(Mr Straw) Yes. Saddam Hussein is the architect of
the misfortunes of the Iraqi people. Weapons Inspectors need to
go back there. Iraq poses a very severe threat in terms of its
development and possible use of weapons of mass destruction, of
that there can be no doubt. Therefore, restraining the development
of those weapons of mass destruction is essential and to do that
we require proper inspection. We have been in the lead in the
United Nations on seeking a replacement, a more effective replacement,
of Security Council Resolution 1284. When I was at the United
Nations' General Assembly three and a half weeks ago I spent a
good deal of my time in discussions with Igor Ivanov, the Russian
Foreign Minister, and Sergei Lavrov, who is the Russian Permanent
Representative, about our proposals. Where we got to was not that
they were accepted as we wanted them to be but it was better than
we anticipated because in place of the straight forward rollover
resolution, which would have just strung things out for another
six months, we got agreements with the Russians, and then with
the whole of the Security Council, for work to go on, on the detailed
operation of a goods review list between now and the time when
this current resolution will expire in six months' time. With
luck I think this might happen. There will be then a much better
regime in place which, on the one hand, will allow the export
to Iraq of goods which are only of civilian use for humanitarian
and other purposes and on the other hand will better, more effectively
interdict material which is either for military use for weapons
of mass destruction, certain conventional weapons, or of dual
48. As you know, Saddam Hussein, so far, has
taken an unequivocal hard stance against the restoration of the
UN Weapons Inspectors into Iraq, and I would like to ask you,
Foreign Secretary, do you see any prospect of being able to persuade
Saddam Hussein to accept the restoration of the UN Weapons Inspectors
into his country without an intensification of military action
against that country?
(Mr Straw) I see some prospect of it. I would not
use the verb "persuade". I see some prospect of Iraq
coming to accept that this has to happen for the future of the
regime as well as the future of people in that country. I would
not put it higher than that but I think there is some evidence
to that effect.
49. Coming to accept that without an intensification
of the military action?
(Mr Straw) There certainly has to be intensification
of diplomatic pressure on them. If we are to achieve that end,
without that which you speak about, it requires more active engagement,
for example, by Russia than they have had before and a recognition
by Russia that what has been an ambiguous approach to Iraq up
to now is not helpful in terms of the stability of the region
and the stability of the international community.
50. The US has the right to defend itself under
the UN Charter. Do you think that right extends to taking pre-emptive
action against a state which the US believes may attack it?
(Mr Straw) All countries have a right to self-defence
under Article 51 of the United Nations' Charter, Mr Pope. I am
not, I am afraid, going to get drawn into hypothetical answers
to hypothetical questions of the "what if" variety.
What is clear is the United States were fully justified in taking
the action that they did take in Afghanistan. It is clear, also,
that if country X receives very good information that country
Y or terrorist group Z is about to attack it, and takes action
in self-defence to stop that attack, it is acting consistently
with Article 51 but the exact circumstances are going to vary.
51. Can I put it to you that there is a country
Y which is developing a much larger ballistic missile capability
than it currently has. It is possibly developing chemical, biological,
maybe even nuclear weapons.
(Mr Straw) Which country are you thinking about?
52. If I specify the country it makes it harder
for you to answer. The country I am thinking of is Iraq. I do
not think there is any doubt that the fears I have just expressed
about Iraq about ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction
are there. It is difficult to verify them simply because they
will not allow the UNSCOM inspectors in. Where does this leave
us in the next phase? It is natural as we all celebrate events
in Afghanistan we are all looking at what happens next. It seems
to me that is the logical next step.
(Mr Straw) On the issue of Iraq, I have not got that
much more to add to that which I answered to Sir John a moment
ago. You are right to say that Iraq's building of weapons of mass
destruction is a very serious potential threat to the peace and
stability of the region and, therefore, to the whole of the international
community. You are right, also, to imply that the international
community has to take action. There is then a question of what
action is best taken in respect of that where care and consideration
is required. This is a separate matter from culpability for the
atrocities of 11 September. As I have said before, and this has
been repeated by others, I have seen no evidence to link the Iraqi
regime with Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda or the Taliban, but we are
concerned, very concerned, about Iraq's development of these weapons.
We believe that international action has to take place and I have
talked already about the dramatic steps which have to be taken.
53. If I can just widen it out a little from
Iraq, it was possibly foolish of me to allow myself to be drawn.
(Mr Straw) No, no, I said before the Committee is
of the highest possible intellectual ability.
54. If I can turn to the UN Counter Terrorism
Committee, which is chaired by Sir Jeremy Greenstock, that Committee
has given countries until December 27 to come up with a proposal
to counter terrorism. I think the likelihood is most countries
will sign up, most countries will do something. A range of other
countries will sign up and do nothing. Some countries may not
sign up at all. What happens after December 27 to those countries
which are just not complying at all in the UN campaign against
(Mr Straw) I will need to write back to you, Mr Anderson,
if I may, with a more considered answer, but what is likely to
happen is that there will be a report from Sir Jeremy Greenstock's
Committee to the Security Council and then the Security Council
will consider what action needs to be taken.
(Mr Wright) If I could just add to that, Foreign Secretary.
The intention is by the 27 December the Committee should have
received reports from all the countries. Those reports are, as
I understand it, principally about legislation in those countries,
domestic legislation which relates to terrorism, and plans for
legislation. What will then happen is that the Committee is now
agreeing that all those reports should be reviewed by one of three
sub-committees who are dividing up the work really alphabetically.
It is when that review process reaches conclusions and makes recommendations
that problems can be identified and addressed.
55. What will happen to those countries which
it is believed do not have administrative or military capacity
(Mr Wright) Would you like me to respond, Foreign
(Mr Straw) Yes, please.
(Mr Wright) There is certainly intention in the United
Nations to offer assistance in the first instance to help countries
improve their legislation and improve their remedies. I think
it would be premature and there is certainly no fixed plan yet
as to what to do about countries that fail to respond, fail to
improve, fail to respond to any assistance offered and so on because
that is necessarily some way down the road.
Mr Pope: A final comment. Just to say the Committee
met Sir Jeremy when we were in New York about three weeks ago
and I think we are all delighted that he has been asked to Chair
the Counter-Terrorism Committee. It does reflect on how well our
mission to the UN is held by other nations.
56. Foreign Secretary, can I move us back to
the Middle East conflict. Do you think there is now any possibility
of a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict following
the suicide bombings in Haifa on 1st December and, of course,
today's tragic suicide bombing as well? Is there any possibility?
(Mr Straw) We have to continue to hope that there
could be a peaceful resolution of this terrible and longstanding
conflict but, for sure, the prospects of such a resolution in
the short term have been greatly reduced by what has happened,
and of that there can be no doubt.
57. I think we all share that but I hope our
Government will do everything it can to encourage the Americans
as well to be involved. I think their involvement is absolutely
(Mr Straw) Mr Hamilton, all of us have been very active
in terms of diplomacy. I was speaking on Saturday in advance of
these appalling acts of terrorism to Nabil Shaath to seek to persuade
him to allow in the United Nations' General Assembly Resolution
on the Middle East reference to the fact that Israeli civilians
were being killed, had been killed, as well as Palestinian civilians.
The point I made to him was that since the Palestinian authority
say publicly that they recognise that there have been innocent
Israelis who have been killed, as well as innocent Palestinians,
and they do not agree with that, they oppose it; and they recognise
the right of the state of Israel to exist and to live in peace
with security. They need to have those words in resolutions which
they were sponsoring before the General Assembly, and they have
to make a choice. On Sunday, I spoke to Yasser Arafat after the
terrorist outrages in Israel to urge him, yet again, to take effective
action against people who they know to be terrorists in Hamas,
Hezbullah and Islamic Jihad, to lock them up and make sure they
stay locked up. I was telephoned, also, by Shimon Peres on Sunday
and talked to him. I said to him that I said to Chairman Arafat
that I had made a similar point but more starklysince Chairman
Arafat there and then was expressing his outrage at these terrorist
incidentsthat he should ensure that the same views against
killings of Israeli citizens were reflected in this United Nations'
General Assembly Resolution. Now, I regret the fact that this
was not followed through and, therefore, when the Resolution came
up before the General Assembly two days ago we abstained, which
I think was the only proper thing to do in respect of the Resolution.
We continue to see what can be done to assist. Javier Solana was
in London yesterday, I had a long meeting with him and then subsequently
he had a long meeting with the Prime Minister. What we believe,
very strongly, is that there must now be clear and unambiguous
steps taken by the Palestinian Authority to assert its authority
over its territory and in particular over these terrorists. We
have all said that for long enough but it has to happen in our
judgment. They have to lock up these people. They have to make
sure they stay locked up. We have always made it clear to the
Palestinian Authority that we would be ready to provide observers,
which we believe could be made acceptable to the Israelis, and
the Americans would too, to verify these people were locked up.
They have to take other action as well and in my view Chairman
Arafat has to work very hard to reduce the level of gratuitous
violence which is emanating from outside. On the relations with
the United States, there are continuous discussions with senior
people in the United States administration, clearly between our
Prime Minister and President Bush, about this issue. I have to
say that President Bush did go the extra mile in his statement
to the General Assembly on November 10 and Secretary Colin Powell
went a further mile with his very, very comprehensive statement
on 19 November and his courageous decision, for which he has been
criticised in the United States, to put in Mr Burns, Under Secretary,
and General Zinni as his Special Representatives. It is tragic
that, again, some extremist terrorists took this outrageous action
which for the time being has so disrupted the peace process. But,
to come back to the beginning of your question, the only future
for the people in those lands is through a peace process. Although
some people there, of course, get close to despair we have to
keep working to support them to achieve a peace.
58. Thank you very much. Can I move us on to
another key regional plan which may have a role in all this and
that is Iran.
(Mr Straw) Yes.
59. You visited Tehran on 21 November. Can I
ask you to tell the Committee what you achieved during that visit?
(Mr Straw) Yes, it was my second visit, I visited
there, also, on 25 September. The principal purpose of my visit
on this occasion, on 21 November, was to discuss Afghanistan.
I met Dr Abdullah Abdullah at the British residence in Tehran,
that was an extremely important meeting. I had previously spoken
to him on the telephone a couple of times, I think, but I had
not met him. We were able to discus the Northern Alliance's attitude
to the Bonn conference which at that stage had still not been
agreed, their approach to external military presence in Afghanistan
and other matters. In turn I was able to talk to Kamal Kharrazi,
the Iranian Foreign Minister, and his colleagues about Iran's
approach to Afghanistan, and particularly its approach to the
Northern Alliance. The key point here is that that part of the
Northern Alliance represented by General Fahim, Mr Qanuni and
Dr Abdullah Abdullah has long been supported by Iran. They have
not only given rhetorical support but they have paid for them
as well. Subsequent to that, I have been able to call both Dr
Kharrazi and Dr Abdullah to try to ensure a satisfactory outcome
to these talks, which has now been achieved.