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Mr. Straw: First, I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his congratulations to people whom he described as "skilful" public servants. Indeed, they are and they were, and they worked very co-operatively with their counterparts in the United States.
I understand that, given Libya's history, there may be a degree of scepticism about the arrangements that we have made with Libya, but the Prime Minister used the word "courageous" and I used a similar word, "statesmanlike", in the statements on 19 and 20 December as a result of the best judgments that we could make following long experience, working in the strictest secrecy with the Libyans over many months, going back to a period of conduct from the late 1990s, when my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook), made arrangements for the trials of the Libyan suspects to be held in The Hague and then for the restoration of diplomatic relations with that country.
Of course, everyone on each side is bound to be cautiousthat applies also to the Libyansbut I do not think the right hon. and learned Gentleman would be right to be too cavilling about what has been achieved. It is a very significant development. Moreover, the reassurance lies in the extent to which Libya has accepted very intrusive inspections by the IAEA and the OPCW and, outside their remits, by the United States, the United Kingdom and, in appropriate circumstances, by the P5 of the Security Council.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked about matters relating to other states. Work in relation to North Korea is well known and publicised, and on the record. He will forgive me for not going into detail about other states that we suspect may have illegal weapons programmes. The same caution applies in respect of
Mr. Robin Cook (Livingston) (Lab): May I heartily congratulate my right hon. Friend on a landmark agreementwithout the qualifications that we have just heard from the Opposition Dispatch Box? Does he agree with me that we do not have to endorse all the foreignor, indeed, the domesticpolicies of Colonel Gadafi to recognise this as a good agreement that we should welcome, that serves our interests and that is also right for Libya? We should certainly go into this with our eyes open and without any false impression about what may be in the background or about some of Colonel Gadafi's current policies. But if we do not respond generously and openly to this good agreement, we are very unlikely to get any other such agreements from any other country in the world.
Finally, may I invite my right hon. Friend to convey the House's warm appreciation to the career diplomats in the middle east command, who have proved that patient and persistent diplomatic engagement can be as successful as any dramatic method in reaching a solution?
Mr. Straw: I thank my right hon. Friend for the very diplomatic terms in which he put that questionthe season of good cheer has obviously continued into the first week of January. In turn, I should like to offer my thanks to him for the leadership that he showed some years ago. He took some rather difficult decisions, opening up relations with the Libyans to get agreements in respect of Lockerbie, and to set the ground for agreement to pay compensation to WPC Fletcher's family. However, in answer to a question from the right hon. and learned Member for Devizes (Mr. Ancram)I am sorry that I did not deal with it directlyI accept that there are still outstanding issues to be dealt with by the Libyans in respect of their co-operation in our identifying WPC Fletcher's likely murderers.
I shall of course pass on my right hon. Friend's thanks to the career diplomats, and to the othersthey are well known to himwho worked so hard on this dossier. I endorse the point that he makes: this is a sensible agreement that is right for the international community, but is also right for Libya. Over the years, it has become apparent inside Libya that its future security would not be assured in any way by its developing unlawful weapons programmes in the nuclear, chemical and biological fields, and that it is far more likely to be assuredas I am sure it will beby its coming fully into the international fold.
Mr. Michael Moore (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) (LD): The Foreign Secretary's statement is extremely welcome. In respect of Libya, we must never forget the atrocities committed at Lockerbie or the callous murder of WPC Fletcher. However, at a time of enormous worldwide uncertainty and danger, Libya's new willingness to comply with international obligations represents a major breakthrough. The Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister deserve full credit for their part in securing that. To the warm thanks
According to the Foreign Secretary's statement, Libya had succeeded in enriching uranium, yet according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the programme was still at a very early stage in its development. Can he clarify his understanding of the progress made by Libya? What does he expect the international inspection regime's timetable to be and what role will the UK play in it?
Putting this development into its wider context, does the Foreign Secretary agree that, as the right hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) said, patient multilateral diplomacy offers the best way of removing the worldwide threat of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction? Building on the recent successes in Iran and Libya, can he assure us that the Government will use this newly created momentum to intensify the effort for diplomatic solutions in other potential flashpoints, such as North Korea?
Mr. Straw: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his opening remarks. He is right to say that we must never forget either the poor souls who lost their lives on the day of the Lockerbie atrocity or the outrageous murder of WPC Fletcher. We do not intend to do so.
The hon. Gentleman asked about the timetable. What is now happeningthis partly answers his question about uranium enrichmentis the beginning of a programme of inspection and verification by the IAEA and the OPCW. The remit is wide but has limits. Parallel discussions are also taking place between Libya and the United States and the United Kingdom in respect of other matters. A report will be presented to the March meeting of the IAEA board of governors, though what it will contain remains to be seen. The IAEA's inspectors and our own experts are still actively investigating issues about the extent of the uranium enrichment facilities.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman about patient multilateral diplomacy. I have always been in favour of it, as have the whole Government. However, we must bear in mind that any sort of diplomacy can have effect only if there is a willing interlocutor. That applied in Iran and Libya, and I hope that the relative early success of those two engagements will encourage the forces of light in countries that still harbour unlawful weapons programmes to engage in similar diplomatic activity. That will require them, as much as us, to engage with the process.
Mr. Russell Brown (Dumfries) (Lab): The whole House will welcome today's announcement and developments over recent weeks. My right hon. Friend mentioned Lockerbie, and compensation is still very much on the agenda. However, I am sure that he and other hon. Members will agree that compensation can never make up for the loss of loved onesall 270 of them. It has been said recently that because the US is not lifting sanctionsnecessary by 12 MayLibya will withhold the compensation payments. Will the Foreign Secretary do everything in his power to ensure that his colleagues in the US lift those sanctions? Can he provide
Mr. Straw: My hon. Friend speaks with special poignancy and authority, because Lockerbie is in his constituency. He is right that no amount of compensation, apologies or trial processes can ever make up for the loss of innocent lives on that dreadful December day in 1988. That said, it is better for compensation and apologies to be offered and for trial processes to be in place than not.
On the issue of lifting US sanctions and its link with the payment of compensation under Security Council resolution 1506, I am in regular contact with US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and I will be happy to raise the issue with him. I propose to have a brief meeting with my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Brown) immediately after the statement.
Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): Does the Foreign Secretary agree that it is desperately important for world peace that we make a positive and meaningful response to this concession by Libya, and indeed the similar concessions of Iran? Will he make real endeavours to persuade the United States to lift trade sanctions? Will the resumption of normality lead to an invitation to Colonel Gadafi to visit the United Kingdom?