Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Seventh Report


The continuing threat from al Qaeda

434.  In his 5 March speech on the continuing threat of global terror, the Prime Minister said that it remained his "fervent view that the nature of the global threat we face in Britain and round the world is real and existential….it is monstrously premature to think the threat has passed. The risk remains in the balance here and abroad"[575] Similarly, when introducing the US State Department's Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003 annual report, Ambassador Cofer Black, Co-ordinator for Counter-terrorism noted that: "There is every indication that al-Qaida continues to plan mass casualty attacks against American and other targets worldwide." Moreover, figures cited in the report indicating that the number of international terrorist attacks fell in 2003 have since been revised to show that acts of international terrorism are on the rise.[576]

435.  We heard from witnesses that despite concerted international efforts to tackle terrorism "any assessment that the global terror movement has been rolled back, or that even one component of that movement, al-Qa'ida, is on the run is optimistic and most certainly incorrect despite significant arrests of certain individuals."[577] The nature of al Qaeda and associated groups means that the capture of individuals has only a limited impact. Dr Magnus Ranstorp and M J Gohel told us that al Qaeda is not a centralised monolithic organisation that can be combated by the removal of individual leaders or operatives. "[W]e are dealing here with not one group, no single, central command and control structure, but a number of groups, autonomous, independent, but bonded together by an ideology."[578]

436.  Since our last Report there have been a number of worrying developments, notably in Spain and Saudi Arabia. We examine some of these below.[579]


437.  On 11 March, explosions in three train stations in Madrid killed nearly 200 people. These were not suicide attacks: bombs were left on trains in rucksacks. In Spain's general election, just days later on 14 March, the Socialists defeated the incumbent Popular Party. One of the Socialists' electoral pledges had been to withdraw Spain's 1,300 troops from Iraq unless the UN took control of Coalition operations following the 30 June handover.

438.  Our witnesses were divided over what the Madrid attacks reveal about al Qaeda's capabilities. While Dr Samore did "not see any technical demonstration of proficiency over and above what they have demonstrated in other cases",[580] Dr Ranstorp told us that the attacks show "the worrying speed with which very sophisticated support mechanisms, logistical frameworks, managed to coalesce to put together an operation with extraordinarily devastating effect."[581] For his part, M J Gohel focussed on the depth of planning associated with the attacks.[582] Nevertheless, while downplaying the operational importance of the Madrid attacks, Dr Samore believes they have great strategic significance. "I think it tells us something very frightening about the extent to which al-Qaeda is apparently trying to tailor its attacks to manipulate public opinion and to divide the West."[583]


439.  Saudi Arabia has been a particular focus of concern in the war against terrorism, not least because of the number of Saudi nationals involved in the 11 September attacks. More recently, the country has witnessed a series of terrorist attacks. In May 2003 suicide attacks against housing compounds for Westerners in Riyadh killed 35 people. Since then, the attacks appear to be escalating. In May, a gun attack at a petrochemical site in Yanbu killed eight people and injured about 25 and an attack in al Khobar resulted in the death of 22 and injured 25. In June, there were a number of fatal shootings directed at Westerners, including a BBC team, and a US engineer was kidnapped and beheaded.[584]

440.  As well as vowing to wage a jihad against US forces in Saudi Arabia, al Qaeda has denounced members of the Saudi royal family as tyrants, accusing them of "plundering the nation's oil wealth".[585]

441.  On 13 June, the Foreign Office authorised the voluntary departure of non-essential staff and dependents from Saudi Arabia. Foreign Office travel advice warns that: "There is a continuing high threat of terrorism in Saudi Arabia. We believe that terrorists are planning further attacks in Saudi Arabia against Westerners and places associated with Westerners."[586] In June, United Kingdom Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sherard Cowper-Coles was reported as saying that "there is a serious and chronic terrorist threat" in Saudi Arabia.[587]

442.  Riyadh has been criticised for being slow to realise the threat posed by terrorism in the Kingdom. Our witnesses agreed that Saudi Arabia now recognises the danger posed by terrorism within the Kingdom, but took different positions on the success and extent of Saudi efforts to tackle the problem. Dr Ranstorp told us:

    they are doing their best to try to stem this flow in terms of trying to crack down, but it is a very difficult path to tread, given its legitimacy, given the fact that they are finding quite significant pockets of militancy, not just from the extreme but also from a number of different sources within the kingdom.[588]

However, M J Gohel was somewhat more sceptical:

    I think Saudi Arabia has taken some action under US pressure, but it is really in my opinion too little and too late. It is not entirely wholehearted either. We have seen, for instance, in the recent attack just a few days ago in Yanbu that the carnage went on for one and a half hours before the security services arrived, so either the services were inept or incompetent, or they were complicit in some way, because it is peculiar that it should take that long. Last year a house containing something like 15 suspects was surrounded in an urban area of Riyadh, and yet all of the suspects managed to escape, even though the get-away car would not start. They were able to flag down another car and escape in that. Was this ineptness? I am not sure. They seem to be very efficient in tracking down foreigners and Filipino maids and locking them up for two years because they have a picture of Christ or the bible.[589]


443.  In our last Report in this inquiry, we commended the Government for its swift action in response to the terrorist attacks in Istanbul in November 2003 and for the setting up of the FCO 24-hour response centre, which we visited and found most impressive. We also welcomed the Government's decision to review the security of all overseas posts as well as its security strategy, which was announced by the Foreign Secretary in December.[590] This review was completed in June. We discussed the review with Sir Michael Jay, Permanent Under-Secretary of State, at the end of June, and will consider it in our forthcoming Report on the FCO's Annual Report for 2003-04. The FCO also recently announced its revision of its travel advice system.[591]

444.  We conclude that al Qaeda continues to pose a very serious threat to the United Kingdom and its interests. As a result, fighting the threat of international terrorism must remain a top foreign policy priority.

Multilateral efforts to tackle terrorism

445.  In previous Reports in this Inquiry we have noted that no country can prevent terrorism in isolation: only governments working together can raise global counter-terrorism capacity.[592] We remain convinced of this fact.

446.  We have also described the important steps taken within the UN, EU and NATO to promote international co-operation against terrorism and examined the role of multilateral institutions in the war against terrorism.[593] We set out below our understanding of recent multilateral developments of relevance to the war against terrorism.


The Counter-Terrorism Committee

447.  Our previous four Reports on the war against terrorism have described the establishment of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee (CTC), and its important role in the co-ordination of counter terrorism activities between UN member states.[594] In these Reports, we have commended the Government for its high level of commitment towards the CTC.

448.  However, in late 2003 and early 2004 a number of problems were identified with regard to the work of the CTC. In November 2003, its Chair Ambassador Inocencio Arias submitted a report on difficulties implementing Resolution 1373.[595] This identified several fields in which states are having difficulties, including financing of terrorism, competence of the courts, ratification of the 12 international conventions and protocols without enforcement measures, links between terrorism and organised crime and links between terrorism and illegal movement of nuclear, chemical, biological and other potentially deadly materials.

449.  The report also found that the CTC needed to strengthen its efforts to facilitate technical assistance and reinforce co-ordination with international, regional and subregional organisations. In addition, the CTC identified several problems within its structure and proceedings, notably the functions and working methods of the Chair, the secretariat and experts, and the lack of proper financial accountability and of an active communications policy. The CTC's procedures also need to be reconsidered in several areas, notably its decision-making mechanism; follow-up of decisions; and the need to broaden its present information sources.[596]

450.  During our visit to the UN in March, when we met Ambassador Arias, we heard that progress in the CTC had stalled, but that there was optimism that ongoing reform efforts would succeed in reinvigorating it. On 26 March, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1535, restructuring the CTC. The Resolution provides for a Plenary comprising all 15 member states, and a bureau made up of the Chair and Vice-Chairs assisted by the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), to be established as a special political mission under the policy guidance of the Plenary. The Security Council is to conduct a comprehensive review of the CTC by 31 December 2005.[597]

451.  In its response to our last Report, the Government welcomed the reform efforts of the CTC and endorsed the approach taken by the Security Council to achieve a more coherent structure to back up the CTC.[598] It also outlined the bilateral assistance offered by the United Kingdom to assist countries to counter terrorism:

    The Counter Terrorism Programme of the Foreign Office's Global Opportunity Fund aims to build counter terrorism and security capacity in key states around the world… Our projects are designed to help countries reduce the threat that directly affects our shared interests by increasing their ability to catch and prosecute terrorists, improving protective security, and helping them to make life gradually harder for the terrorists and their support networks, squeezing the space in which they operate… From the drafting and implementation of counter terrorism legislation; training law enforcement, intelligence and military units; advice and assistance on protecting aviation and maritime transport and other important potential targets; developing resilience and crisis management systems and ensuring that financial institutions (banks, charities, etc) are protected against abuse. The UK is active in a number of countries, primarily in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, including Kenya, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. For example, through the funding of a Commonwealth Secretariat programme, we are delivering a package of assistance to help common law countries in Africa and Asia to develop robust counter terrorism legislation that is human rights compliant. We are providing training to the police, prosecutors and judges to both understand and implement the legislation within the rule of law in order to ensure that cases against suspected terrorists are free and fair, so as to best ensure a solid conviction if a terrorist act has been committed.[599]

452.  Despite the progress made on restructuring the CTC, there remain some concerns about its work. The CTC has no power of sanction, although it can name countries that are making insufficient progress on compliance. During our visit to the UN, we heard some concerns about the ability of the CTC to do this given that it works by consensus. We also heard about the need to incorporate human rights concerns in the work of the CTC.

453.  We welcome the efforts to reform the UN's Counter-Terrorism Committee in order to make it more effective. We commend the Government's role in the reform process and its continued commitment to the Counter-Terrorism Committee. We further commend the work of the FCO to assist countries to build their counter-terrorism capacity through the Global Opportunity Fund. We recommend that in its response to this Report the Government provide a further update on the FCO's work in this area, the progress achieved to date and any area of concern. We further recommend that the Government seek to ensure that human rights concerns are incorporated in the work of the CTC and inform us of what progress has been made in this regard.

The Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee

454.  The Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee was set up in 1999 under UN Security Council Resolution 1267.[600] The Security Council maintains a list of organisations and individuals linked to the Taleban or Al Qaeda; member states are obliged to implement an arms embargo, travel ban and asset freeze on the individuals and entities on this list. The Sanctions Committee is responsible for the consolidated list and monitors the compliance of member states with the sanctions.

455.  We noted in our last Report that there have been difficulties with regard to international co-operation on measures against al Qaeda and the Taliban.[601] In its most recent report (which covers the period 1 January-31 December 2003), the Sanctions Committee noted that it has made progress on expanding and refining its consolidated list of individuals.[602] However the report also noted that:

    The lack of State reporting… limited the Committee's ability to draw precise conclusions regarding how effective States were in their fight against terrorism and thus to accurately focus on specific areas in which the Committee should enhance its efforts by providing better support to Member States in their implementation of the sanctions measures.[603]

456.  In June, the FCO wrote to us with an update on the Sanctions Committee:

    The UK fully supported the adoption of UNSCR1526(2004) when it strengthened the sanctions imposed originally by UNSCR1267(1999) and sought to increase the number of Member States reporting, including by widening the mandate of both the Al-Qa'ida & Taliban (formerly the 1267) Sanctions Committee and its Monitoring Group. In particular, the new resolution asked the Sanctions Committee to have a central role in assessing information regarding effective implementation of the measures and to recommend improvements to them. The Sanctions Committee has been instructed to engage in detailed discussion with, and to make visits to, selected countries to enhance their full and effective implementation of the measures.

    The Committee's new Analytical Support and Monitoring Team, headed by a Briton, Richard Barrett, is already engaging with those states that have not yet submitted reports. The Monitoring Group has also been tasked to submit three comprehensive, independent reports to the Committee, the first by 31 July 2004, on implementation by States of the measures. These reports should include concrete recommendations for improved implementation of the measures and possible new measures.

    On 25 May the Chairman of the Sanctions Committee gave a briefing to the Security Council based on the reports received so far. He had concerns over the implementation by some Member States. Amongst these, we are especially concerned that in a number of States, the assets freeze list is being sent to banks only and not to the wider financial sector. It is also of concern that, whilst new rules for charities have been introduced by some, less attention has been paid to alternative remittance systems such as Hawala. In addition, the Chairman noted that there was less than effective incorporation of the travel ban list into the border controls of some States, which might allow known Al-Qa'ida or Taliban individuals or associates to cross borders more easily than they otherwise should.

    As a leading member of the Sanctions Committee, and given the serious and continuing nature of the threat by Al-Qa'ida and the Taliban, we will continue to work closely with both the Sanctions Committee and the Monitoring Group in fully addressing the issues raised by the Chairman. In particular, we will be directly assisting the Monitoring Group with devising their suggestions for improved implementation and possible new measures during their visit to the UK later this year.[604]

457.  In previous Reports in this Inquiry, we have detailed efforts to counter terrorist financing. We noted that although progress has been made, much work remains to be done to end terrorists' access to funds.[605] In its response to our last Report, the Government said:

    The Government intends to continue with its significant counter-terrorism assistance programme, which includes helping other countries with combating the financing of terrorism. The programme is a collaborative effort across several government departments. In the coming financial year (2004-05) assistance with combating the financing of terrorism will include issues relating to legislation, financial services industry regulation, law enforcement, and charity regulation, depending on the relative need in different countries. This assistance will be directed at those countries where the terrorist threat is greatest to UK interests. Assistance will be co-ordinated with other international donors to avoid duplication, including through the G8 Counter-Terrorism Action Group

    The government has established a specific interdepartmental structure to focus its efforts in this area, pulling together policy and activity across a large number of government departments. The government will continue to play an active role in the EU, the UN, the G7/8, the Financial Action Task Force, and bilaterally with other international partners, to ensure that progress on combating the financing of terrorism continues as part of the overall fight against terrorism. The government will also continue to provide technical assistance to other countries as part of this overall effort.[606]

In its most recent report, the Al-Qaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee noted its concerns that al Qaeda retains access to considerable sources of funding.

458.  The Monitoring Group reported that, despite new initiatives to combat terrorist financing, such as "know your customer" regulations and "suspicious transaction reports", substantial funds were still available to al Qaeda from the illicit drug trade, charities and deep-pocket donors. The Group noted that al Qaeda was adapting to the tightening of international financial structures, especially by using alternate remittance systems such as hawala to transfer money. The Group also reported that al Qaeda continued to use alternate remittance systems to transfer money. A new concern raised by the Group was that charities, even though they had been designated on the list, often proved difficult to shut down, owing to the sensitivity of government oversight of such organizations. The Monitoring Group also reported that states were reluctant to freeze tangible assets, such as business or property.[607]

459.  We conclude that there remains considerable cause for concern that terrorist groups retain access to significant sources of funding. We recommend that the Government redouble its efforts in this field, and that in its response to this Report it set out what progress has been achieved to date in this field, what are the main areas of difficulty, and what proposals it has to achieve further progress.


460.  We have discussed in previous Reports the different approaches taken to countering the threat posed by terrorism in the US National Security Strategy and the EU Security Strategy.[608] We heard from witnesses that the differing experiences of Europe and the US may inform operational prerogatives, but that respective threat perceptions appear to be converging.[609]

461.  In a previous Report in this inquiry, we concluded that:

    It is now more important than ever for the Untied Kingdom to work with partners in the European Union and the United States, and to demonstrate that there is no need to chose between these valued and long-standing partners.[610]

462.  Since the publication of the EU Security Strategy in December 2003, there have been a number of important developments in the EU approach to terrorism. Following the 11 March terrorist attacks in Madrid, the EU summit was dominated by the issue of how to co-ordinate and co-operate in countering terrorism. On 22 March, European interior ministers adopted the Declaration on Combating Terrorism. This Declaration stated that: "In light of the events in Madrid, the European Council believes that full implementation of measures to combat terrorism is a matter of urgency."[611] Similarly, on 30 March, Javier Solana, EU High Representative for CFSP, said "we are not re-inventing the wheel, we have been working very hard and at a very good pace since September 11, but we wish to see how the wheel can turn much more rapidly. We have no time to waste."[612]

463.  The Declaration outlined a package of anti-terrorist measures, including:

  • The adoption of a 'solidarity clause' which provides for mutual assistance in the event of a terrorist attack.
  • The appointment of a counter-terrorism co-ordinator within the Council Secretariat to oversee the EU's anti-terrorist activity (Gijs de Vries was subsequently appointed to this position).

The Declaration also called for member states to ensure that the existing legislative framework is implemented, further develop the legislative framework in the area of information and intelligence sharing and reinforce co-operation in law enforcement.

464.  The proposals in the March Declaration reflect the difficulties of European co-operation. In particular, there is frustration over the failure of member states to implement measures adopted by the EU and the lack of co-ordination between institutions and member states. Many member states also remain reluctant to share intelligence, preferring to act bilaterally.[613] The recent failure of EU ministers to appoint a new director for Europol highlighted continued tension among member states over police co-operation.[614]

465.  We conclude that it remains of the utmost importance that the United Kingdom work with its partners in the EU as well as the United States to combat the international threat posed by terrorism. We commend the Government for supporting the developments within the EU to facilitate more effective co-operation. However, we conclude that significant further steps are required for EU anti-terrorism action to be effective. We recommend that the Government in its response to this Report explain in detail what it is doing to encourage more effective European co-operation against terrorism.

Counter-proliferation strategy

466.  Since our last report, the Government has broadened its efforts to curtail the spread of WMD materials and technologies, alongside partners such as the USA and the EU. In a comment in his 5 March speech, the Prime Minister made clear the scale of the threat: "We knew that Al Qaida sought the capability to use WMD in their attacks. Bin Laden has called it a 'duty' to obtain nuclear weapons. His networks have experimented with chemicals and toxins for use in attacks."[615]

467.  Fears about the threat of terrorist possession of WMD have propelled efforts to control the proliferation of WMD, which have included expanding membership of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), presenting a welcome face to Libya for its willingness to curtail its WMD programme and re-enter the international fold, and putting diplomatic pressure on Iran to agree to international inspections of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).


468.   The broadest effort to prevent WMD proliferation is the PSI, which President Bush announced at a speech in Krakow on 31 May 2003, in response to the USA's frustration over its inability in December 2002 to detain the So San, a ship bearing Scud missiles from North Korea to Yemen.[616] The PSI is an informal grouping of states, including Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the USA, and the United Kingdom, which interdicts shipping on the high seas suspected of carrying WMD materials. Since our last report in January 2004, the group has expanded to include Canada, Norway, Russia and Singapore, and has the permission of Panama and Liberia, two prominent 'flag of convenience' states, to board and search their ships.[617] The PSI remains an intergovernmental initiative with no secretariat.

469.  The PSI rests on a uneasy legal foundation. Currently, PSI is unlawful under the terms of Article 110 of the Convention on the Law on the Sea, which only permit interference with another state's vessels when there is reasonable ground for suspecting that the ship is engaged in piracy or the slave trade, unauthorised broadcasting, is without nationality, or is of the same nationality as the warship despite flying another flag.[618] Carrying weapons of mass destruction at sea is not prohibited under international law, and if a state is not a party to the Convention of the Law of the Sea interference with its ships is not permissible except where the above conditions have come to constitute an internationally accepted customary norm. Indeed, the interdiction of a ship without the permission of the state concerned may amount to an act of belligerence.

470.  The Foreign and Commonwealth Office wrote to us on 5 July 2004 outlining the legal justification for PSI. They said:

    PSI builds on the 1992 UN Security Council Declaration which states that the proliferation of all WMD constitutes a threat to international peace and security, and underlines the need for members of the UN to prevent proliferation. The PSI is also consistent with United Nations Security Council resolution 1540 (2004), adopted unanimously on 28 April 2004, in which the Council inter alia "calls upon all States, in accordance with their national legal authorities and legislation and consistent with international law, to take cooperative action to prevent illicit trafficking in nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, their means of delivery, and related materials.[619]

Yet some states have doubts about the PSI's legal basis; the Chinese government, for instance, has raised its concerns about the initiative.[620]

471.  According to the existing legal framework, the interdicting powers can argue that their activities are legitimate by changing custom so that carrying WMD materials becomes illegal—in the same way that the United Kingdom made the prohibition of slave trading on the high seas a customary norm in the nineteenth century—by altering the Convention on the Law on the Sea, by adopting a UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) permitting their action or alternatively by pleading anticipatory self-defence.[621] However, using anticipatory self-defence to justify the interdiction of traffic on the high seas is difficult since the imminence of a threat from weapons components transferred to a third state is debatable,[622] and more worryingly risks extending the doctrine to such an extent that it might justify almost any military action.[623] The FCO said in their letter that "PSI does not affect the general rules of international law for the use of force, nor is it intended to be a vehicle for doing so".[624]

472.  The FCO described their initiatives to broaden the legal basis of PSI in their letter of 5 July 2004, saying:

    To further extend the legal basis for interdiction operations, the UK has opened negotiations with a number of flag states with a view to concluding bilateral boarding agreements. We hope to conclude the first of these agreements shortly. Other PSI participants are looking at similar action. The US for example has concluded bilateral boarding agreements with Liberia or Panama. Separately, we are supporting proposed amendments to the Suppression of Unlawful Acts At Sea Convention (SUA) which would make it a criminal offence to transport WMD by sea.[625]

473.  Despite the legal cloudiness, the PSI is a flexible supplement to existing treaty frameworks for non-proliferation, and its informality allows the assessment of each case on an individual basis, so judging the legitimacy of the transport of dual use goods, which can have civilian and military uses, on their intended destination. Its flexibility also means that the French or Australian navies, for instance, can operate in their home waters and the initiative will still have something close to international presence, despite only one of the members, the USA, boasting a navy with a genuinely global reach.[626] We commended the Government's decision to participate in the PSI in our Second Report of Session 2003-04.[627]

474.  We conclude that the expansion of membership of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) to include new members such as Russia and the willingness of Panama and Liberia to allow searches of their ships is most welcome, and we commend the Government's efforts to encourage other states to agree to the interdiction of their shipping. However, we recommend that the Government work for a United Nations Security Council Resolution which would resolve the legal difficulties over PSI. We also recommend that the Government set out in its response to this Report what amendments to the Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation 1988 are under consideration and who has proposed them, and how the Government will draw a distinction between the legitimate and illegitimate transport of WMD by sea.


475.  The announcement by Libya on 19 December 2003 admitting a WMD programme marked a success for non-proliferation efforts; Libya's agreement to dismantle its weapons efforts has led to its re-admittance to the international community.

476.  Describing the importance of Libya's adherence to non-proliferation efforts, the Foreign Secretary told us:

He also said that Libya's willingness to comply with international standards of non-proliferation would benefit the North African state.

    This is the start of a deepening relationship with Libya, and it would be quite inappropriate for us to say, "That's fine, our engagement will now cease". That is neither desired by the United Kingdom, the United States, nor is it desired by the government of Libya. Who knows exactly what the motivations were that led President Gadaffi last March to seek to actively co-operate with us, but there is no doubt that the desire to see the economy modernised and greater access to education and science and technology by his people was one of the motivations.[629]

477.  The Prime Minister's visit to Libya on 25 March 2004 went far to bring Libya into the international fold, as did a report by the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) saying that Libya was co-operating with inspections in May 2004.[630] The USA also resumed relations with Libya on 28 June 2004, and Libya now supplies American consumers with oil.[631] However, Libya's openness to a degree of economic reform and political liberalisation is in doubt, which could cause difficulties given the focus on reform as an important ingredient of the West's approach to the Middle East and North Africa.

478.  We commended the Government for its role in encouraging Libya to scale back its WMD programme, as well as the Government's policy of engagement, in our last Report on the foreign policy aspects of the war against terrorism. We also concluded that the Government's policy on Libya could present a model for dealing with other rogue states.[632] The Butler report, Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction, also praised the quality of intelligence that contributed to understanding of Libya's WMD programme.[633]

479.   We give a cautious welcome to Libya's agreement to comply with international non-proliferation initiatives. We recommend that the Government continue working to integrate Libya into the international community, and that it set out in its response to this Report what it is doing to encourage a degree of economic reform or political liberalisation in Libya, particularly in association with the European Union.


480.  Iran's accession to the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in December 2003 had improved relations between Iran and the international community. The accession took place after an intense period of diplomatic activity in October 2003 by an EU troika of France, Germany and the United Kingdom, and strong US condemnation of Iran's nuclear programme, in response to which Iran agreed to unannounced inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and suspended uranium enrichment.[634]

481.  However, doubts have since arisen about Iran's co-operation. The IAEA passed a resolution condemning Iran in March 2004, saying that the authorities in Tehran had failed to declare aspects of the nuclear programme.[635] The resolution was a response to Iran's decision not to declare uranium enriching centrifuges and its failure to explain the presence of bomb-grade uranium on components.[636] Then, after the European troika presented a draft resolution reprimanding Iran to the IAEA in June 2004, Iran declared that it would not stop development of the nuclear cycle. The Iranians claim that their nuclear capability is purely civilian. [637]

482.  The international community remains resolute about pressuring Iran to agree to IAEA policing of its nuclear programme. US Assistant Secretary of State for Non-proliferation, John Bolton, told Arms Control Today in June 2004:

    The insistent demand by the international community and the IAEA that Iran end its non-compliance and return to compliance is a first step, but I think it will take more than just the IAEA. It will take the international community writ large making clear to Iran that it faces two choices. If [Iran] chooses to continue down the nuclear weapons path, it will face increasing political and economic isolation. The alternative is to give up that path and be restored as a reputable member of the international community. Libya chose the benefits of coming clean.[638]

483.  We concluded in our report on Iran, that:

    the lesson to be drawn from the success of the EU troika initiative is that, by acting together with firm resolve the international community has been able to persuade Iran to modify its nuclear policies in ways which will bring benefits to Iran, to its neighbours and to the international community. However, it is important to recall that the agreement was only necessary because Iran had been developing covertly a nuclear threat capability. It is also clear from Iran's failure to declare some aspects of its nuclear programme since the Agreement was signed that continued vigilance will have to be exercised by the IAEA, backed up wherever necessary by intrusive monitoring and effective verification measures.[639]

484.  In its response, the Government set out its position:

    We believe resolute action by the international community will be necessary to ensure that Iran lives up to its commitments. We are working in a variety of formats—bilaterally, and with France and Germany, and through the EU—to encourage the Iranian authorities to co-operate fully with the IAEA, and comply with resolutions of the IAEA Board of Governors. We are urging Iran to work with the IAEA to resolve all outstanding questions about its nuclear programme. The IAEA Director-General has reported a pattern of past concealment in Iran's declarations to the Agency. We have pressed Iran to ensure that the declaration of nuclear-related activities and facilities it is required to make under the Additional Protocol is complete and final; it would be highly damaging for international confidence if Iran were to be less than fully transparent. We have also pressed Iran to rebuild confidence in the peaceful ambitions of its nuclear programme by verifiably suspending, and ultimately ceasing, all enrichment-related and reprocessing activity. We have urged Iran to refrain from moves likely to undermine confidence further, such as the postponement of IAEA inspection visits in March and the proposals to take forward work at the Uranium Conversion Facility at Esfahan and the Heavy-Water Research Reactor at Arak. Continued public statements by senior Iranian officials demanding that the IAEA Board of Governors 'close the Iran file' at its June 2004 meeting are unrealistic.[640]

485.  We conclude that Iran's nuclear programme continues to pose an intense challenge for the international community, and that the continued exertion of diplomatic pressure by the European troika, the US and the Russian Federation is essential to its resolution. We recommend that the Government persevere with its strategy towards Iran's nuclear programme and make clear to the authorities in Tehran the benefits of compliance.

Arab reform and public diplomacy

486.  We have discussed elsewhere the need to resolve regional conflicts such as those between Israel and the Palestinians and between Pakistan and India.[641] In our last Report we noted the continued relevance of our conclusion in July 2003 that "resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to be of central importance to the long term stabilisation of the Middle East region."[642] We have also dealt with the need to tackle the sources of extremism in Pakistan and to ensure continued international commitment to Afghanistan to prevent the country from once again becoming a haven for extremists.

487.  Another area of concern is the lack of democracy and the general under-performance in the Arab and Islamic world. While in New York, we discussed this issue with the United National Development Programme, which has produced a serious of reports on Arab Human Development. The 2002 Arab Human Development Report noted the region's low incomes, stagnant growth and fast growing populations. It concluded that the barrier to better performance in the Arab world is not a lack of resources but the absence of freedom, knowledge and 'womanpower'. Absolute monarchies remain a feature of the Arab world, while elections are often flawed and the media and civil society operate under heavy constraints.[643]

488.  M J Gohel told us:

    We have to stop the recruitment of new generations of terrorists … Some 2 billion Muslims are ruled in 60 countries, not a single one of which is truly democratic, except maybe Malaysia and Turkey. The trouble is the young men only have a choice between a despotic regime or the clerics in the mosque. If they are not benefiting from the despotic regime, they go to the clerics, and the clerics say Jihad is the way to prosperity and paradise.[644]

We also heard from witnesses about the lack of serious reform in Saudi Arabia and how this has fed into the deteriorating situation in that country.[645] However, while the issue is clearly important to the West, Western efforts to support democratisation are problematic.

489.  In an address to the National Endowment for Democracy in November 2003, President Bush outlined the US interest in reform in the Middle East. [646] "Our commitment to democracy is also tested in the Middle East, which is my focus today, and must be a focus of American policy for decades to come. In many nations of the Middle East—countries of great strategic importance— democracy has not yet taken root." He went on to outline the opportunities that he believes are presented by the war in Iraq. "Iraqi democracy will succeed —and that success will send forth the news, from Damascus to Teheran—that freedom can be the future of every nation. The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution." The President went on to discuss "a new policy, a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East."

490.  In February 2004, the Arabic newspaper al-Hayat leaked details of the US administration's Greater Middle East Initiative, which was designed as a 'visionary complement' to the war against terrorism. Although the plan was far from innovative, incorporating the promotion of democracy and good governance, building a knowledge society and expanding economic opportunities,[647] it prompted concern in both the Middle East and Europe about US efforts to impose a plan on the region. Egypt and Saudi Arabia took the lead in rejecting the initiative. At a press conference, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told journalists that efforts to impose models of reform from abroad are "unacceptable".[648] This sentiment was echoed across the Arab world. In response, a number of regional states, including Egypt, Jordan and Tunisia proposed their own initiatives to be adopted at Arab League Summit planned for the end of March in Tunis. Although this summit was cancelled under various pressures, a subsequent summit held in Tunis in May produced a pledge to embrace reform and fight terrorism. However, not only was the plan vague, but no mechanism has been set up to monitor progress.[649] Thus, there remains well founded scepticism over the commitment of many Arab countries to pursue genuine reform.

491.  The formal launch of the US proposal for democratic and economic reform at the G8 summit in June 2004 did little to reassure either Arab leaders or populations, despite efforts to emphasise the importance of home-grown reform.[650] A number of key Arab states stayed away from the summit, reluctant to be seen to endorse US-sponsored reform plans.

492.  The United Kingdom has taken a more understated approach to reform in the Middle East. On 1 March, the Foreign Secretary made a speech on 'Partnerships for reform in the Arab World'. While emphasising the United Kingdom's interest in successful reform in the Arab World, Mr Straw stressed that reform must be home-grown:

    It is the people of the Arab world who are best placed to understand the challenges they face, and to decide how best to deal with them. The ideas must come from our Arab friends. We in Europe or the West cannot and must not dictate to them; but we can, and will, work with them to support and nurture reform.[651]

He went on to outline some of the steps that the United Kingdom can take to support reform:

    We can offer our expertise in adapting to a changing world, for example on educational standards, legal reform, the participation of women, market regulation or youth policy….But whatever we do in Britain, we need international partnerships to achieve our aims. For Britain, working through the EU will be crucial. The European Security Strategy endorsed last December makes the Middle East a priority—and rightly so. The EU is already strongly engaged. The so-called 'MEDA' programme of aid totals around €700 million per year; the Barcelona Process and our partnership with the GCC give us frameworks for closer partnership; and bilateral Association Agreements link us even more closely to individual countries in the region. We now need to use these instruments more coherently and effectively to promote our shared goals—for example by focusing MEDA funds on our strategic objectives, and deepening the relationship with the Gulf states through the EU-GCC dialogue. The new European Neighbourhood Policy should also give us new opportunities to build partnerships for reform in the region. We need to work first of all with those countries which have shown a clear wish to reform; and we need to make sure the partnerships include conditions by which both sides are prepared to abide.

493.  On 5 May, the Foreign Office wrote to the Committee, outlining steps it is taking to help bring about reform in the Arab world:

    The FCO last year established a new team in London and in the region dedicated to furthering reform in the Arab world. It also established a £1.5 million Engaging the Islamic World programme to support this policy by assisting indigenous-led change and modernisation in the areas of governance, rule of law and issues surrounding women. The programme fund was increased to £3 million this financial year and extended to Islamic countries beyond the Arab world. The British Government is also using its influence in multilateral organisations to support regional reform. We expect agreement at the G8 Summit in Sea Island to a menu of activity that assists reform in the region. We are contributing to the development of an EU Strategic Partnership for the Mediterranean and the Middle East, to be considered at the June European Council. This international engagement supports recent regional demands for change and modernisation, such as the Sana'a and Alexandria inter-governmental and nongovernmental declarations earlier this year.[652]

494.  We also heard from the BBC World Service and British Council about their work in the Middle East and their enhanced focus on the broader Islamic world following the publication of the FCO's White Paper 'UK International Priorities' in December 2003.[653] The White Paper also prioritised the promotion of democracy, good governance and human rights.

495.  As well as efforts to improve radio and online services, there was a proposal for a BBC Arabic television service, but this did not receive funding in the Treasury's recent spending review.[654] For its part, the British Council told us that it:

    played a central part in formulating the Public Diplomacy Strategy for the Middle East, which allocates a key role to the British Council in encouraging mutual understanding and in engaging with reform in education and civil society on the lines recommended by the UNDP's First and Second Arab Human Development reports.[655]

We heard that the British Council is in discussion with a number of education ministries across the Middle East about how to engage and share expertise from within the United Kingdom.

496.  There are clear dangers associated with being seen to support reform projects in the Arab world. Given the high level of anti-US sentiment in the region and the links made by the US administration between the war in Iraq and the spread of democratic reform, close association with such projects could be detrimental to more than just the prospects of reform. In his speech on 1 March, the Foreign Secretary alluded to this problem. "We in Europe should make clear that we share America's recognition of the need for reform, but that we need to work closely together and with the Arab world to ensure we get our approach right."[656]

497.  There is a clear need for reform throughout the Arab world. However, we conclude that it is important not to seek to impose reform on the region but to encourage and support domestic initiatives where appropriate. We agree with the Foreign Secretary that Arab reform must be home-grown and we commend the work of the Foreign Office in support of regional and national reform initiatives. We also welcome the work of the BBC World Service and British Council in the region. We recommend that in its response to this Report the Government provide a fully up-dated report on the work it is doing in this area.

575   Remarks by Tony Blair, 'PM warms of continuing global terror threat', 5 March 2004, 10 Downing Street: Back

576   'Powell "Very Disturbed" by Errors in 2003 Terrorism Report', US State Department press release, 10 June 2004; and 'US re-releases flawed global terror report', Financial Times, 23 June 2004. Back

577   Ev 39 Back

578   Q152 Back

579   Events in Iraq are dealt with elsewhere in this Report (see paras 12-20). Back

580   Q28 Back

581   Q154 Back

582   Q155 Back

583   Q27 [Samore] Back

584   'Timeline: Saudi Arabia', BBC, 29 May 2004, and 'US warns Saudis of terror threat', BBC, 14 June 2004. Back

585   'For Saudi Arabia, al Qaeda threat is now hitting home', Washington post Foreign Service, 8 June 2004. Back

586   FCO Travel Advice, available at: Back

587   'Manhunt after BBC man killed in Saudi', Reuters, 7 June, 2004. Back

588   Q164 Back

589   Q165 [Gohel] Back

590   HC (2003-04) 81, para 257. Back

591   FCO: Review of Foreign and Commonwealth Office Travel Advice, Cm 6158, April 2004. Back

592   HC (2003-04) 81, para 258 and HC (2002-03) 405, para 190. Back

593   HC (2003-04) 81, paras 260-66, 287-308; HC (2002-03) 405, paras 185-90 and 228; HC (2002-03) 196, paras 16-17; and HC (2001-02) 384, para 69. Back

594   HC (2003-04) 81, paras 259-61; and HC (2002-03) 405, paras 185-90. Back

595   On 28 September 2001, acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter (concerning threats to international peace and security), the Security Council adopted Resolution 1373 (2001), reaffirming its unequivocal condemnation of the terrorist attacks which took place in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania on 11 September 2001, and expressing its determination to prevent all such acts. Resolution 1373 also established the CTC to monitors the implementation of resolution 1373 by all States and tries to increase the capability of States to fight terrorism. Back

596   Work programme of the Counter-Terrorism Committee (1 January-31 March 2004), 13 January 2004, available at: Back

597   Resolution 1535 (2004), adopted by the Security Council at its 4936th meeting, on 26 March 2004. Back

598   Cm 6162 Back

599   ibid Back

600   UN Security Council Resolution 1267 (1999), adopted by the Security Council at its 4051st meeting on 15 October 1999. Back

601   HC (2003-04) 81, paras 265-6. Back

602   Report of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1267 (1999) concerning Al-Qaida and the Taliban and associated individuals and entities, 8 April 2004. Back

603   Ibid Back

604   Ev 160 Back

605   HC (2003-04) 81, paras 267-70 ; and HC (2002-03) 405, paras 191-95. Back

606   Cm 6162 Back

607   Report of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1267 (1999) concerning Al-Qaida and the Taliban and associated individuals and entities, 8 April 2004, paras 32 & 36. Back

608   HC (2003-04) 81, paras 287-94. Back

609   HC (2003-04) 81, para 293. Back

610   HC (2002-03) 405, para 106. Back

611   Declaration on Combating Terrorism, available at: Back

612   Joint press conference with Javier Solana and Gijs de Vries, Brussels, 30 March 2004, available at: Back

613   'Solana slams EU's anti-terror measures', EUObserver, 19 March 2004. Back

614   ''Mastermind' of Madrid bombings arrested in Italy', Financial Times, 9 June 2004. Back

615   'PM warns of continuing global terror threat', 10 Downing Street: Back

616   'The Proliferation Security Initiative: Can interdiction stop proliferation?', Arms Control Today, June 2004 Back

617   Ibid and Foreign Affairs Committee, Second Report of Session 2003-04, Foreign Policy Aspects of the War Against Terrorism, HC 81, paras 309-313 Back

618   DJ Harris, Cases and Materials on International Law, (London 1998) p 430 Back

619   Ev 167 Back

620   US to search ships for WMD, BBC, 5 September 2003 Back

621   Weapons of Mass Destruction Counterproliferation: Legal Issues for Ships and Aircraft, CRS Report for Congress, 1 October 2003 Back

622   Ibid Back

623   'The Proliferation Security Initiative: The Legal Challenge', Bipartisan Security Group, September 2003 Back

624   Ev 167 Back

625   ibid Back

626   The Proliferation Security Initiative: Can interdiction stop proliferation?, Arms Control Today, June 2004 Back

627   Foreign Affairs Committee, Second Report of Session 2003-04, Foreign Policy Aspects of the War Against Terrorism, HC 81, para 84 Back

628   Q148 Back

629   Q149 Back

630   UN continues Libya nuclear probe, BBC, 28 May 2004 Back

631   US resumes relations with Libya, BBC, 28 June 2004 Back

632   Foreign Affairs Committee, Second Report of Session 2003-04, Foreign Policy Aspects of the War Against Terrorism, HC 81, para 249-51 Back

633   HC 898, para 84 Back

634   Iran rejects more nuclear curbs, BBC, 12 June 2004 Back

635   IAEA says Iran failed to disclose key nuclear activities, Arms Control Today, March 2004  Back

636   Iran rejects more nuclear curbs, BBC, 12 June 2004 Back

637   IAEA near sharp rebuke of Iran on nukes, The Guardian, 16 June 2004 Back

638   The Bush Administration's Nonproliferation Policy: An Interview with Assistant Secretary of State John S Wolf, Arms Control Today, June 2004 Back

639   Foreign Affairs Committee, Third Report of Session 2003-04, Iran, HC 80, para 58 Back

640   Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Third Report from the Foreign Affairs Committee Session 2003-2004: Iran, Response of the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Cm 6198 Back

641   See paras 255-56 & 345-47 Back

642   HC (2003-04) 81, para 125. Back

643   'Arab Human Development Report', UNDP, 2002. Back

644   Q156 Back

645   Q167 Back

646   Remarks by President Bush, the National Endowment for Democracy, Washington DC, 6 November 2003. Back

647   These concepts have long been incorporated in US aid programmes and the European Barcelona Process. Back

648   'Asserting home-grown reform', al-Ahram Weekly, 4-10 March 2004. Back

649   'Arabs condemn targeting civilians', Financial Times, 24 May 2004. Back

650   'Partnership for Progress and a Common Future with the Region of the Broader Middle East and North Africa', G8 declaration, Sea Island, Georgia, 9 June 2004. Back

651   'Partnership for reform in the Arab World', remarks by the Foreign Secretary, 1 March 2004. Back

652   Ev 69. A conference of Arab intellectuals and non-governmental organisations on 12-14 March at the Alexandria Library produced the Alexandria Document on Reform in the Arab World. Back

653   FCO: UK International Prioties: a strategy for the FCO, Cm 6052, December 2003. See also Minutes of Evidence taken before Foreign Affairs Committee, 22 June 2004, to be published as part of HC 745. Uncorrected transcript available at: Back

654   HC Deb, 12 July 2004, col 1129-1139. This issue will be discussed in more detail in our forthcoming Report on the FCO Annual Report. Back

655   British Council written evidence to be published as part of the Annual Report series, HC 745. Back

656   'Partnership for reform in the Arab World', remarks by the Foreign Secretary, 1 March 2004. Back

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