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Mr. Straw: Of course, I am happy to associate myself and the Government with the remarks made by the right
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hon. and learned Gentleman about the death of President Reagan, who was a historic figure in the United States and the west.

I listened with great care to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. It would have been altogether slightly more impressive and consistent with his earlier position of supporting military action had he adopted a rather less cavilling and churlish approach. He was so anxious not to talk about the subject that for one moment I thought that he was going to talk about Europe, until I remembered the United Kingdom Independence party and the difficulties that that is causing the Conservatives.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked me some questions about the amount of time that has been spent on developing this approach. I remind him that with the agreement of the Iraqis, we accelerated the whole time scale. Originally, the transfer of power was going to be made much later this year, running into next year. Following decisions that were made with the coalition provisional authority and the Iraqi Governing Council on 15 November, the current time scale was agreed. There was a lot of scepticism about whether it could be met in time, but it has been, and it was endorsed by resolution 1511. The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked me about what he says is the crucial distinction between international law and international humanitarian law—there is no distinction. At one point, international law is talked about generally, while at another, international humanitarian law is talked about because it is specific to the context.

On the circumstances in which the Iraqi forces and multinational forces will co-operate, the letter from Dr. Iyad Alawi to the Security Council, which is also referenced by the letter from Colin Powell, deals with that in the second main paragraph on page 2—I provide that detail for the benefit of colleagues in the House who wish to look at it after this statement. It states:

It continues:

What we sought to do in these letters was to specify the framework of principles that should apply. By definition, since we are dealing with what will happen in the future, we cannot specify every single circumstance, but I do not believe that some of the difficulties that have arisen in recent months will arise under the arrangements. In any event, the Iraqi interim Government, as well as the transitional Government, after 31 January, have an absolute right both to call for a revision of the terms under which the multinational force operates and a right to call for its withdrawal. Taken together, those will be adequate protections to ensure that the Iraqis are fully involved in this partnership, but that commanders on the ground from the multinational force have proper operational control when they are involved in an operation.
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A further report is awaited from the Iraq survey group, and my statement does not relate to it directly.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence made a statement about the deployment of British troops just two weeks ago. If there are to be any further deployments—and for the moment it is a big if—my right hon. Friend will make a statement at the appropriate time.

Donald Anderson (Swansea, East) (Lab): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the progress that has been made in building consensus, both in the United Nations Security Council and internally in Iraq. It is surely imperative that we give the new Iraqi interim Government the greatest possible degree of sovereignty, even if that means taking some risks.

Can my right hon. Friend comment on Mr. Alawi's statement to al-Jazeera over the weekend that there should be greater progress towards finding places in the new Iraq for former Ba'athists who are not guilty of human rights abuses? Is that supported by our Government and, perhaps more particularly, by the United States Government?

Mr. Straw: I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for what he has said. I should make it clear that no degrees of sovereignty are being transferred by 30 June; authority and sovereignty are being transferred, full stop. As for progress on the absorption of former Ba'ath party members who are not implicated in the excesses of the regime, we strongly agree with Prime Minister Alawi, and that view is now shared by the United States Government.

Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): It would be ungenerous not to acknowledge that there has been real progress in recent days, but does the Foreign Secretary accept that the ultimate verdict will depend on the final terms of the resolution, on effective and credible implementation of its provisions and, in the end, on its acceptability to the Iraqi people as a whole?

Can the Foreign Secretary tell us whether there are any differences of substance or nuance between Her Majesty's Government and the United States Government on security issues? Why is it necessary for matters concerning sensitive operations to be incorporated in letters rather than in the resolution itself?

The Foreign Secretary will recall telling me in correspondence that he expected the resolution to restore control of all Iraqi resources and assets to the Iraqi Government. Will that be achieved in the new draft resolution, or are there any exceptions? In particular, will the interim Government have power to renegotiate any contracts relating to oil or oil exploration in Iraq?

Finally, when does the Foreign Secretary expect the last British soldiers to leave Iraq?

Mr. Straw: I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the spirit of his remarks.

I think that an interim verdict will depend on the terms of the Security Council resolution and its acceptability in Iraq. I think that the ultimate verdict will depend on whether the process leads to a
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democratic, stable and secure Iraq; but it is my solemn hope and, now, my cautious expectation that that will be the case. Speaking for myself and, I believe, for many colleagues on both sides of the House, I think that if that happens—as I hope and expect it will—it will mean a great new beginning for the country that was so ravaged by three decades of tyranny under Saddam Hussein, in which hundreds of thousands of people died.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman asked whether there had been any differences of substance or nuance on security issues. There have been no fundamental differences. It will come as no surprise to the House that there has been extensive discussion, not only with other Security Council partners but with our friends in the United States Administration, about the precise wording of the resolution.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman also asked why it had been necessary to include the details of the security arrangements in letters rather than in the resolution itself. That is because the agreement needs to be between the multinational force and the Iraqi Government rather than the Security Council, on which the Iraqi Government do not happen to sit and on which, in any case, they would sit in a different capacity. However, the letters themselves are annexed to the resolution. They are public, and we readily conceded to Security Council partners that they needed to see the text of the final version of the letters, as signed, before it was reasonable to ask them to vote for the resolution because, in practice, they form an integral part of the overall decisions that we hope will be made in the Security Council shortly.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman asks about the renegotiation of contracts. Oil has always been the property of the Iraqis, none of it has been used to pay for the coalition and it will continue to be the property of the Iraqis. He asks whether there will be the power to renegotiate any of the contracts. The Iraqi interim Government have accepted under the transitional administrative law a self-denying ordinance—it has not been imposed on them—meaning that they will not take actions that are irrevocable and that would tie the hands of the elected Government who will be in place after 31 January. I think that that is right, but subject to that—and it is quite a big subject—they will be free to negotiate their own contracts.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman's last question was what will be the last date on which British forces will be in Iraq. The last date under the mandate, if it is passed, will be 31 January 2005. Whether any troops will remain after that period will obviously, above all, be a matter for the Iraqi Government at the time, who, by that stage, will be fully elected and operating under their own constitution.

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