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16 Sept 2003 : Column 675W—continued

Cyprus

Mr. Love: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what plans he has to reduce the barriers to obtaining a visa to visit the UK for residents of the occupied part of Cyprus; and if he will make a statement. [127810]

Mr. Mullin: The visa regime on the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" ("TRNC") stems from the fact that the United Kingdom requires holders of non-national travel documents to obtain visas to enter the UK. The "TRNC" travel document is considered to be a non-national travel document as it is issued by an authority which is not recognised by HMG. This will remain the case after the entry of the Republic of Cyprus into the EU in May 2004, unless a comprehensive political settlement is achieved first.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Mr. Doug Henderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. [129583]

Mr. Mullin: The transitional process in Kinshasa is now making encouraging progress. The new Transitional National Government (TNG) should provide a real opportunity for the Democratic Republic of the Congo to put an end to the cycle of conflict and human rights abuses and start on the path to democracy and development. We are looking actively at ways in which we can provide support—bilaterally, with EU and other partners, and through the UN.

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo regarding human rights abuses in that country; and if he will make a statement. [129827]

Mr. Mullin: Before the Transitional National Government (TNG) was installed in Kinshasa at the end of July our ambassador made regular representations to the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo about human rights abuses in the territory they then controlled. During the same period the Government supported international efforts to raise human rights awareness in rebel-held areas and, with the EU, condemned abuses in those territories.

Since installation of the TNG, we have continued to make our views known, both bilaterally and with our international partners. We will support the work of relevant institutions such as the National Human Rights Observatoire.

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Iraq

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many officials the Coalition Provisional Administration has in the British-controlled sector of Iraq; and if he will make a statement. [128795]

Mr. Rammell: The number of Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) officials in the British-controlled sector is approximately 90. These officials are of various nationalities, and include military and civilians (who might be government secondees, consultants, or contractors). This excludes (a) people and organisations that support CPA with services e.g. security, (b) contractors who are implementing projects but not in any strict sense involved in administration and (c) military who are doing related jobs and are part of the coalition forces but not of CPA.

The 90 currently includes 27 British civilian staff members with the Coalition Provisional Authority South in the British-controlled sector of Iraq. These include three police and 14 from the Department for International Development. In addition, there are 39 uniformed personnel. It is expected that at least 34 more additional posts will be filled in the near future.

Paul Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on which dates the UNSCOM inspectors visited presidential sites in Iraq before 1999; and what facilities were inspected on each date. [129282]

Mr. MacShane [holding answer 15 September 2003]: A special team of inspectors, with 20 senior diplomats acting as observers, was established in March 1998 to carry out inspections at eight presidential sites. The inspection mission, UNSCOM 243, visited the sites on the following dates: Radwaniya on 26 and 27 March; Tikrit on 28 March; Mosul and Jabal Makhul on 29 March; Tharthar and Basrah on 30 March; and the Republican Palace and Sijood sites in Baghdad on 1 and 2 April. The inspectors' report was subsequently published as a United Nations document (S/l 998/326), which can be found on the UN internet website at www.un.org/Depts/unscom/s98–326.htm.

There were no further visits to any of these sites.

Liberia

Lady Hermon: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation in Liberia. [129826]

Mr. Mullin: I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Dhanda) on 8 September 2003, Official Report, column 63W.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the members of ECOWAS about (a) UK, (b) EU and (c) UN assistance in Liberia; when these discussions took place; what the outcome of these discussions has been; and if he will make a statement. [129975]

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Mr. Mullin: The UK is committed to working closely with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to ensure that the present Multi-National Force, and the UN Mission planned for Liberia, are successful in restoring peace and security to Liberia. We have been in close and regular contact with members of ECOWAS, especially Nigeria, over assistance in Liberia.

We have had discussions within the European Union to ensure adequate funding for Liberia. We have also had discussions within the UN to ensure that the UN Mission is fully equipped to do its job. We have committed £1 million to the ECOWAS Multi-National Force, and have seconded a military adviser to the ECOWAS Secretariat. We have also offered military advisers to the UN planning mission and head quarters.

Moldova

Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps the Government are taking to assist with the control of proliferation of (a) weapons and (b) nuclear materials in Transnistria in Moldova. [130184]

Mr. MacShane: We are not aware of any dangerous nuclear materials in the breakaway region of Transnistria. Along with EU partners and allies, we are assisting Russia with the destruction/removal of arms from Transnistria. We are also focusing closely on the political settlement negotiations between Moldova and Transnistria. Resolution of this "frozen conflict" is essential for extending the rule of law throughout the entire territory, an element of which is improved control of arms proliferation. The UK joined with EU partners in imposing targeted sanctions on the Transnistrian leadership in February this year to put pressure on them to negotiate with the Moldovan authorities. I urged the Ukrainian government to take action with the Moldovan authorities to deal with the Transnistria problem in talks in Kiev on 15 September.

Nepal

Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what instructions have been issued to officials at the High Commission in Kathmandu regarding applications from the wives of Gurkhas, serving in this country, for visitor visas in cases where the soldiers have six months or less to serve. [130181]

Mr. Mullin: No specific instructions are issued to the British Embassy in Kathmandu in respect of visit visa applications from the dependants of Gurkha soldiers. Applications for all visitor visas are considered on their own merits in accordance with the United Kingdom Immigration Rules, and no special arrangements are in place for the dependants of Gurkha soldiers.

However, entry clearance staff in Kathmandu are aware that any Gurkha whose family wish to visit him in the United Kingdom has to follow British Army standing regulations.

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A Gurkha soldier is required to submit to his Commanding Officer a request for members of his family to visit him in the United Kingdom. If the visit is agreed the Army issues a "certificate—Visit by Gurkha Family to Husband's/Father's duty station in the UK"

An entry clearance application is then made in the normal way. Entry clearance staff in Kathmandu would expect the above-mentioned certificate to be included with other supporting documentation.

Overseas Students

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has received on the level of charges for visas and leave to remain for overseas students; and if he will make a statement. [129981]

Mr. Mullin: I have received few representations regarding the level of visa fees for students. Visa fees are set at a level to ensure that the full cost of providing the entry clearance service worldwide is met from fee income and that the UK taxpayer does not have to meet any of the costs. From 1 July 2002, the visa fee for students has been set at £36. Student visas are issued for the duration of their course regardless of its length. Charges for leave to remain are administered by the Home Office and I have therefore not received representations on this matter.


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