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Mr. John Maples (Stratford-on-Avon) (Con): I am sure that the Foreign Secretary shares my deep concern at the damage that has been done to the Atlantic alliance during the past 18 months by the Iraq war. In negotiating the new United Nations Security Council resolution, will he emphasise strongly to his counterparts in France and Germany the importance of using it as an opportunity to start to rebuild the unity and cohesiveness of the alliance, and the fact that if they do not do that, but continue to milk the situation and its difficulties for short-term domestic political advantage, they are likely to turn a short-term problem of the alliance into a long-term one?

Mr. Straw: It is the case that the transatlantic alliance has been under strain as a result of Iraq, as has the alliance within Europe—because this was not an argument between the United States and Europe but, fundamentally, an argument in Europe between those who took differing views. However, I have found in my
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dealings with my French, German and Spanish counterparts as well as with the Russian Federation, the Romanians and many others that there is real understanding about the need to come together. There is a sense of catharsis in the international community, and it was striking that President Chirac of France said yesterday in his address at the international ceremony to commemorate D-day:

I could not put the view of the British Government and Parliament better than that. We are going to see a new spirit of co-operation and cohesion in the transatlantic alliance once we have got this resolution through.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) (Lab): On 18–19 May, there was a tragic attack on the village of Makr al-Deeb, where some 42 victims, mostly women and children attending a wedding, were killed. Has there been any follow-up, who was responsible, and how in heaven's name can the Foreign Secretary praise Bremer, who made the catastrophic mistake of disbanding the Iraqi army and who was responsible for much of the difficulty in Falluja? Incidentally, that praise of Bremer is not in the script that has been given out to Members of the House, so it has obviously been added.

Mr. Straw: The latter point is true—I added that part out of my head, so my hon. Friend can see that I write my own statements. On the more serious—the very serious—point that he raised about what happened to these poor souls who died in this village where there appeared to be a wedding party taking place, that was in the area of American operations. The American Administration are investigating it, and I believe that they are doing so very fully.

Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood) (Con): I associate myself with the tribute to the late Ronald Reagan, who set an example of courage and political leadership that we should not forget today.

Can the Foreign Secretary explain a little more fully what he meant when he said that he hoped for cohesion in the Atlantic alliance once we have got this UN resolution through? Is not the important factor that it should be got through expeditiously and unitedly now? Is it not the case that Saddam Hussein was encouraged by the clear divisions among democratic countries in western Europe that ought to have known better? He was encouraged to hold out against UN resolutions that he ought to have obeyed long since, and we should not repeat or perpetuate that mistake. Should not all members of the Security Council approve the resolution expeditiously and promptly?

Mr. Straw: I hope that it will be approved expeditiously, but I was being cautious. There is no doubt that Saddam was encouraged by divisions in the international community. I do not lay the blame on one side or the other, as that would not be fruitful at this stage. It is important now to recognise that everybody, regardless of the position that they took in respect of the military action, has a very clear interest in giving full
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support to Dr. Alawi and his interim Government and in seeing these processes through and ensuring, through the support of the multinational force and the expanding Iraqi security forces, that security is developed and then enhanced and maintained in Iraq.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): The Foreign Secretary will recall that the Iraq survey group reported to the Congress of the United States that it had discovered extensive UN sanctions busting not only by companies but with the collusion of Governments. Why does he feel unable to disclose the names of the perpetrators in public, to the House of Commons, rather than offering information in private to members of the Foreign Affairs Committee?

What are the ground rules for private security companies, paid for by the British taxpayer, after 1 July? What laws will they be subject to, and what will be the chain of command and the rules of engagement?

Mr. Straw: I have not felt able to make the information available about individuals and Governments under investigation because to do so could prejudice criminal prosecutions at a later date—that is a pretty standard reason why such information should be classified—but I have made it available in confidence to members of the Foreign Affairs Committee. My hon. Friend is himself a member of that Committee. The private—

Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con): A distinguished member.

Mr. Straw: Indeed.

The private security companies operating in Iraq will be subject to the laws of Iraq. In some respects, where international crimes are involved, they are also subject to the laws of the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend, as a distinguished member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, will recall that I published a Green Paper on the operation of such companies from the UK and whether we should introduce legislation. We came down against legislation because of the difficulties involved, but there is no doubt that in countries such as Iraq the operations of such companies, be they UK-based or based elsewhere, should be properly regulated, and that will fall to the Iraqi authorities.

Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): Does the Foreign Secretary think that it would help the new Administration and the allied forces in dealing with hostility if a more significant role were given to Muslim nations in the vicinity? In particular, does he believe that Iran could play a meaningful role in helping Iraq to introduce democracy, given that for many years Iran has had an elected President and Parliament and has introduced many liberal measures, resulting, for example, in more than half of Iran's university students being women? Could not Iran play a really meaningful role in helping the situation in Iraq?

Mr. Straw: Each of Iraq's six neighbours, as well as other major countries in the region, has profound responsibilities in terms of helping with its stability and security. Iran—along with Turkey, its most populous neighbour—has a most important role, and I should like
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to put on record our appreciation of the constructive approach taken by the Iranian Government before Saddam fell and in the subsequent months. We look forward to Iran continuing to play that role, along with the other countries.

Jane Griffiths (Reading, East) (Lab): May I welcome the commitment to UN-assisted elections taking place by next January? Can my right hon. Friend tell the House at this stage whether those elections will be subject to international monitoring by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Council of Europe and other bodies that normally undertake such duties?

Mr. Straw: I am pretty certain that they will be, because they will be under UN auspices. I cannot be certain that the OSCE in particular will be involved, but I shall place more information about that in the record of the House.

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD): Following the Foreign Secretary telling my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for North-East Fife (Sir Menzies Campbell) that the oil is the property of Iraq, can he say whether the occupying powers have any residual responsibility for maintaining the production and transportation of oil, given that Iraq is now producing less oil than in the days of Saddam Hussein and sanctions?

Mr. Straw: What the hon. Gentleman describes as residual responsibilities will arise principally under our responsibility within the multinational force to assist the Iraqis in maintaining security of oil supply—that is of paramount importance—and in respect of international contracts that have been signed by the coalition provisional authority, the Iraqi Government and various international companies to help to provide the oil. I should make it clear that flows of oil would be significantly higher were it not for the fact that terrorists have sought to attack the infrastructure and those working within the industry.

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