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25 Nov 2002 : Column 85—continued

7.3 pm

Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): The House should welcome the election of Amram Mitzna as the leader of the Israeli Labour party. At last, there is an opportunity to open up real debate that could put policies such as land for peace back in the mainstream of Israeli politics, as well as compromise and the removal of settlements.

I am a friend of Israel. I believe that the only hope for peace in the middle east is security for Israel, within recognised borders, vis-à-vis all its Arab neighbours, and that a viable Palestinian state must be committed to living in peace alongside Israel and not act as a base for incursions or terrorist action against it.

Our only hope is for a change of politics and of Government in Israel, so I welcome the fact that Mr. Mitzna said that he wants, without preconditions, to open a dialogue with Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. I appreciate all the difficulties in Israeli society at present, so that is a brave political position. Those of us with the interests of the state of Israel at heart realise that it is necessary for the future.

I want to address my remarks to some of the comments made earlier by my colleagues. There is a clear distinction between resolutions adopted under chapter VI of the UN charter and those adopted under chapter VII. Chapter VI requires both the state of Israel and the Palestinians to meet certain obligations. There is a range of resolutions under chapter VI. However, chapter VII is mandatory and specifies the state of Iraq. If we require full implementation of all the UN resolutions—242, 338 and so on—it is important to realise that they impose obligations on both sides and that, in different ways, both sides have broken the resolutions over a number of years.

The international community must put pressure on both sides to return to negotiations. As in the case of the fire dispute, the only way to achieve resolution is to go back to the negotiating table.

We must also realise that whatever conflict exists between Israel and the Palestinians, it can never be used as an excuse for inaction against the brutal fascist regime in Iraq which has systematically oppressed its own people and attacked its neighbours. It is not only that terrible things were done to the Kurds: Scud missiles were fired on Saudi Arabia and Israel, and chemical weapons were used in the invasion of Iran.

Saddam's record is such that I have deep reservations as to whether he will comply with the terms of the UN resolution. However, if he did so, we could lift sanctions and open up a new chapter in the region. In time, the people of his country would have the confidence to rise up and overthrow the oppressive regime under which they have had to suffer for so many years.

There are many refugees in my constituency: Iraqi Kurds, Shi'as and Sunnis have visited my surgery recently. A Wahabi man who visited me had to flee from Saddam's regime because of his religious beliefs. Some of my Iraqi Kurd constituents are in wheelchairs because they have been shot. There are people whose relatives died from gassing and people who have been tortured. They all tell me that they do not want a war, but they definitely want to get rid of the terrible regime that has oppressed them.

Those of us who say that we should do nothing about that or that we should merely pass another Security Council resolution have to answer this question: at what

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point does the international community enforce the decisions that have been taken? My Labour colleagues should remember what we decided at our party conference this year. Composite 5 stated:

It is not true, as some people allege, that the policy is an American-inspired plot and that it does not reflect our views. We held that debate at our party conference and the choice was made.

I did not believe that the Americans would take the UN route. I did not believe that it was possible to achieve a unanimous resolution of the Security Council. I did not believe that the UN could adopt a united position in favour of the implementation of total disarmament of the weapons of mass destruction of the Iraqi regime. I say that as someone who has been an officer of the UN parliamentary group for a number of years and is currently its vice-chairman.

I believe in the UN; I want the UN to be strong. I do not like a world where there is one superpower, or where Europe is weak and the United States is such a dominant force in the modern world because of its economic, political and military power. I want a strong UN, but the way we get a strong UN is not just by passing resolutions but by implementing them, and this is a great opportunity to achieve that.

In the very short time left to me in this debate, I wish to say that we have to make it clear that Saddam faces a choice. If there is to be a war, it is not of our making; it is of his making because he can announce tomorrow that he is fully complying and taking the necessary steps to achieve that. I hope that that will be the case, but if there is a material breach in January, February, March or whenever, we have to be ready to follow through the consequences of that action on behalf of the world community, the credibility of the UN and, above all, the long-suffering people of Iraq.

7.11 pm

Mr. Paul Goodman (Wycombe): It is clearly necessary that UN resolutions on Iraq be upheld and that weapons of mass destruction be removed. It is clearly also in the national interest and in that of the whole world that that be done. In a sense, what there is to say about this subject should be almost as simple as that, but not quite. Once again, I wish to raise my Muslim constituents' perspective on resolution 1441 because I believe that their views are worth being held in respect by the House. I want to say at once that I do not agree with every point made by all of them, but their point of view is worth hearing none the less.

My constituents are extremely sensitive to the signs of the times, and they note the American Government's determination to address Iraq's breach of UN resolutions, but they ask—various hon. Members have raised this already—if UN resolution 1441 and other UN resolutions are to be applied to Iraq, whether it is not also reasonable that UN resolutions should be applied elsewhere with similar force and effort.

My constituents refer in particular to two conflicts: often to the one in the middle east, which has been so well ventilated today that I do not propose to do so further, and, of course, to the one in Kashmir. Many of

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my constituents originate from Azad Kashmir and have friends or family who originate from there or from behind the line of control. They point out to me that, although UN resolutions on Iraq are mostly relatively recent, some UN resolutions that apply to the conflict in Kashmir have existed for almost 50 years and ask that the people of Kashmir should be allowed to determine their own future, but my constituents see no prospect of those resolutions being implemented. They also point out that, although Saddam invaded Kuwait in the early 1990s and the Iran-Iraq war began in the 1970s, India has illegally occupied part of Kashmir since the late 1940s, and as far as the international—

Madam Deputy Speaker: Order. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman would now direct his remarks to the amendment and the resolution.

Mr. Goodman: I shall certainly return to resolution 1441. I was going to say that, although my constituents note that UN resolutions pertain to all those things, they do not see those resolutions being as urgently addressed as resolution 1441 and the other resolutions on Iraq. I find it hard to overestimate the frustration, cynicism and hopelessness that my constituents of Pakistani and Kashmiri origin report to me when they read the signs of the times and when they see so much effort being expended on UN resolution 1441 and the other resolutions that affect Iraq, but so little effort, as they see it, being applied to those that apply to Kashmir.

I believe, and many hon. Members on both sides of the House agree, that the Government have good reason to take the resolutions that affect Kashmir as seriously as resolution 1441 and the others that affect Iraq because, like Iraq, India and Pakistan also possess weapons of mass destruction, and we know from the events of last May how serious the threat of a conflict involving those weapons is.

Now that America is the policeman of the world and has a position in the world rather like that exercised by Britain in the 19th century—it has very great power—I ask the Government to ask the Americans not merely to concentrate their attention on matters that affect Iraq, but to understand that if the Muslim world is to be persuaded that it is important to resolve the situation in Iraq, it must also be persuaded that the Americans and the Government take the situation in Kashmir as seriously as they take that in Iraq. That is my plea to the Government this evening on behalf of my constituents.

7.16 pm

Donald Anderson (Swansea, East): I begin by endorsing wholeheartedly the chorus of good wishes to our right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Fife (Mr. Campbell).

I note that we have before us a motion that asks us to endorse a UN Security Council resolution that has been agreed unanimously, even with the participation of Syria—the only member of the Arab League on the Security Council. It is therefore hardly surprising that it is very difficult to oppose the motion. Of course resolution 1441 is clear and, indeed, the language is very strong; it talks of Xmaterial breach",

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and Xserious consequences", but perhaps its most important element is that it talks of a Xfinal opportunity".

The UN Security Council is looking back over the history of non-compliance and telling Saddam Hussein and his regime, XYou have one more chance. This is the final opportunity." Of course if there is a further Iraqi breach, the matter will return to the Security Council, as is required in paragraph 12. During the two months' negotiation, the concerns of France and the Russian Federation were met on 8 November, when the explanations of the vote were given. US Ambassador Negroponte said that the resolution contains no Xhidden trigger" and no Xautomaticity". He also said:

as the motion states.

What are the possible outcomes of the resolution? Of course it is possible that Saddam Hussein will wholly comply. It is possible that the United States, with its view of itself as the universal world enforcer, will go off on its own irrespective of any decision of the Security Council. Those outcomes are less likely than the third outcome: Saddam Hussein, as a master of the game of deception, is likely to drag out the process for as long as possible and will seek to divide the international community and to play until the campaign for the US presidential election begins at the end of next year.

Where do we draw the line? Clearly, the international community has a very difficult task ahead. We put enormous responsibility on the weapons inspectors. As Dr. Blix has said very clearly, they are the servants of the Security Council. They do not make decisions; they refer their findings to the Security Council, which interprets whether the breach is trivial or sufficiently substantial to merit the Xserious consequences".

We have to be realistic about what the weapons inspectors can achieve. Those who participated in the Wisconsin project in June this year raised the most powerful doubts, in particular, about the ability of UNMOVIC to receive and use intelligence, and about the experience of the personnel. The experience of previous inspectors is clear: Wyn Bowen told a recent meeting in the House of Commons that UNSCOM never managed to achieve surprise, despite tactics such as splitting the team and revisiting sites. Iraq has had substantial time to move and conceal material. The new team is relatively inexperienced: two thirds of its members are wholly new to Iraq, and it takes time to learn the tradecraft. It is therefore a huge job to cover the 700 or so sites that have been named.

I ask the Foreign Secretary and the Minister now present, the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Dr. Moonie), whether they are confident that UNMOVIC will have sufficient resources in terms of personnel and translation services. Is the international community prepared to respond positively to any request for further resources? The great danger is not that Saddam Hussein will refuse to answer on 8 December, but that he will flood the UN with such a vast amount of dual-use material and so on that it will make UNMOVIC's task extremely difficult. Colonel Terence Taylor, director of the International

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Institute for Strategic Studies in Washington, said that if there is a formal nil declaration by the Iraqi regime on or before 8 December, it Xwill not be credible."

One of the most difficult tasks is to determine what constitutes a material breach—a point made by the right hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram). There is a difference between the UK and US Governments on that point. The US has claimed that breaches of the no-fly zones could constitute a breach, but the UN Secretary-General, who is the interpreter of the resolution, has firmly stated that that would not be a breach. Equally, the US president has said that denial by Iraq of any weapons arsenal could

whereas British sources have been far more circumspect.

A further question is whether we can deal with Saddam Hussein in good faith—can he be trusted? Previous experience and the history of concealment suggest that he cannot be trusted, but that does not mean that he should not be given a fair chance to comply this time. However, there is already some evidence that Iraq is playing games, and we must carefully examine the rather ambiguous letters that Naji Sabri, Iraq's Foreign Minister, sent on 13 and 23 November.

In passing, I note that we need to plan for the post-conflict position now, rather than imagining that it will solve itself.

There will be strains during the coming period, so it is extremely important that the international community remain united and continue in the spirit of the unanimous vote of 8 November. My judgment, having been to Washington with the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs, is that our Prime Minister has played a crucial role in two respects: first, persuading the president to follow the UN route and, secondly, persuading him that there must be some form of parallel track with the Israel-Palestine conflict. Given the urgency of that crisis, it is not good enough to say that we should wait: the Quartet group, which set out its proposals in September, should not do nothing until the two sets of elections—Palestinian and Israeli—take place in January, because those elections are unlikely to effect any fundamental changes on the ground. When people complain that the Prime Minister is too close to President Bush, I remind them of the criticism of the US by Chancellor Schröder and President Chirac and ask who has had the greater and more positive influence on the US president.

I come finally to the parliamentary—

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