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10. Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): What assessment he has made of Israel's compliance with its obligations under the road map concerning the   construction of settlements in the west bank. [23250]
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The Minister for the Middle East (Dr. Kim Howells): The road map is clear that Israel should freeze all settlement activity and dismantle all outposts built since 2001. Sadly, Israel is doing neither. Continued settlement construction in the west bank is contrary to international law and a clear obstacle to peace. We continue to call on Israel to meet its road map commitments, including on settlements.

Richard Burden: I welcome that reply. May I first express my rejection of the comments made last week by the President of Iran, which indicated that we all need to redouble our efforts for a viable two-state solution in that part of the world?

My hon. Friend mentioned settlement building. Israel has withdrawn 8,500 settlers from Gaza and evacuated 19 square miles of territory. However, on 18 October, The Guardian reported that in one year Israel had moved 14,000 settlers into the west bank and seized 23 square miles of Palestinian territory around Jerusalem. Given that that is contrary to Israel's road map commitments and that it destroys the possibility of a Palestinian state,   will my hon. Friend say what he suggests the international community should do about that, as well as what it might say about it?

Dr. Howells: A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to see for myself the impact of the great barrier, or wall, that has been built in and around Jerusalem. It is a pretty horrendous structure, but it is not easy to persuade the Israelis—I am talking about ordinary people—that it is not a good idea because it has reduced the number of suicide bombers and, most importantly of all, the number of people killed in Israel, although there was of course a dreadful suicide bomb in Hadera last week.

The EU and the United Kingdom have made their opposition to the settlements clear. My hon. Friend has quite properly outlined the way in which Israel disengaged from Gaza, which shows that that can be done. Many settlements in the west bank are little more than converted lorry containers and caravans, and it is entirely possible that Israel could even at this stage show the kind of determination that it showed in Gaza, get the settlers out of there and start to move towards meeting the road map commitments.

Sir Menzies Campbell (North-East Fife) (LD): Is not the risk that the developments, which the Minister saw for himself, will make the achievement of a just and viable two-state solution difficult? The extension of the security wall to the north of Jerusalem and the proposal that it should be further extended to the east brings even   closer the day when Jerusalem will be cut off from the west bank.—[Interruption.] How can that possibly be consistent with Israel's responsibilities, either at international law or under the road map? Would not adherence to the road map and progress on it be one of a series of effective responses to the grossly irresponsible remarks of the President of Iran?

Dr. Howells: The right hon. and learned Gentleman is right. I hope that the Israeli Government, who showed tremendous imagination and fortitude in disengaging from Gaza, have the same opinion about the west bank. It is possible to begin that disengagement now, but it
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needs to done very carefully because, as hon. Members shouted from sedentary positions, "What about the deaths? What about the security of Israel?" They are right: Israel must have the right to defend itself, and it is doing just that.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman makes an important point. It will be difficult for people from the southern part of the west bank to move to the northern part, let alone the tens of thousands of Arabs who live within Jerusalem, where lots of different people have lived together over the centuries. If Israel understands the animosity that exists world wide towards the segregation of that city and the way in which it is happening, and if it weighs the balance between measures it can take to defend itself and the detrimental effects that that segregation has, then I am sure that the Israeli Government will come down on the side of saying, "Look. We don't want to put up more barriers to a peaceful, viable neighbour in the shape of Palestine. We want to try and help to facilitate that as a viable country that can thrive."


11. Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): What representations he has made to the Libyan authorities on the case of the Bulgarian nurses and the Palestinian doctor relating to the infection of children with HIV/AIDS in Benghazi. [23251]

The Minister for the Middle East (Dr. Kim Howells): We have repeatedly raised this issue at all levels with Libya. We recognise the terrible tragedy of the children infected with HIV in Benghazi, and sympathise with their families, but we have urged Libya to resolve this to the satisfaction of all parties. We are deeply concerned that the death penalty was imposed on the medical staff and we want to see them released.

Tony Lloyd: My hon. Friend was right to express his concern and that of the Government—indeed, everyone's concern—about the plight of the hundreds of children who contracted HIV/AIDS in Benghazi. However, he is also right to say that it is grotesque that the medics—five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor—face the death penalty. While in prison, they have been the victims of torture and sexual abuse, and the confessions extracted are worth almost nothing in any legal process.

Libya's progress back into the world that we want it to be in is put in jeopardy if the death sentences are confirmed. Before the case comes back to the Libyan Supreme Court, will my hon. Friend ensure that every effort is taken over the next few days to make sure that Colonel Gaddafi and the Libyan authorities understand that the issue is not trivial and will be used to judge what progress Libya makes?

Dr. Howells: Yes, and my hon. Friend is right to   highlight the changes that have occurred in Libya. It   has renounced terrorism, abandoned its weapons of mass destruction programmes and become a safer neighbourhood for the United Kingdom and the EU in general. I am aware of his impressively detailed report into the children infected with HIV in Benghazi and the recommendation by the Assembly of the Council of
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Europe, which I understand will be published at an appropriate time. The UK supports any efforts that seek to bring about the release of the Bulgarian and Palestinian medical staff, and we will continue our active engagement with the Libyan authorities to secure just that outcome.


12. Mr. Brian Binley (Northampton, South) (Con): If he will make a statement on Iran's nuclear programme. [23252]

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Jack Straw): The International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors, in its resolution of 24 September, declared Iran non-compliant with its safeguard obligations under the non-proliferation treaty. While in New York yesterday and Sunday, I took part in informal discussions with Security Council partners and others to consider how the international community could take the issue further forward.

The House will also be aware that the UN Security Council issued a statement at the end of last week condemning the comments made on 26 October by Iranian President Ahmadinejad that Israel must be wiped off the map. These disgraceful comments further underline international concerns about Iran's nuclear programme.

Mr. Binley: Given the concern that the Foreign Secretary refers to, especially about recent statements, do the Government still rule out discussions with groups   opposed to the Iranian regime, even though internal regime change remains an option that could considerably reduce the implied threat?

Mr. Straw: Regime change in Iran is not part of the policy of Her Majesty's Government; nor do I think it would be wise.

Dr. Liam Fox (Woodspring) (Con): In relation to Iran, the Prime Minister said at the end of the European summit:

What do the Government intend to do, rather than simply say, and what is their time scale?

Mr. Straw: The Government are working with our European partners and now, increasingly, with the United States and the Russian Federation to ensure that the Iranian Government become fully compliant with their obligations under the non-proliferation treaty. There are significant questions about the purpose and capability of Iran's nuclear programme. As yet, there is no conclusive proof that it is to be used as a nuclear weapons programme, just significant questions, and we need to be careful about what is made public and about the basis on which we make those judgments.

Over the past two and half years there has been much frustration in the E3 process. At the same time we have, by dint of negotiation and strong pressure from the international community, managed to secure a situation in which the enrichment of uranium by the Iranians
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remains suspended. We intend to continue with that as well as, in conformity with the Paris agreement, putting before Iran provisions by which it may be offered guarantees for its nuclear power programme while the international community receives objective guarantees that no part of the programme can be used for nuclear weapons purposes.

Dr. Fox: In any potential Security Council action China will be a major player, but China has just signed a $100 billion deal over 25 years for Iranian oil and gas. Clearly that could not be used as a reason for China to block any UN action.

The House would expect a commitment that the Prime Minister will raise that specific issue with the   Chinese President during the state visit next week. Will the Foreign Secretary give the House that commitment?
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Mr. Straw: I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is indeed intending to raise the matter with the President of China, as I have done repeatedly with my opposite number, Foreign Minister Li. The Government of China do have commercial relations with Iran, as do many other countries. A close relationship between India and Iran, however, did not stop India voting with the E3/US consensus on the board of governors declaring Iran non-compliant. I commend the approach taken by the Government of China. In all the   discussions that I have had with them they have sometimes taken a different view, but at every stage they have acted responsibly, and no permanent member of the Security Council wishes to see a nuclear-armed Iran. If anyone had any doubt about that, those doubts have been completely allayed by the extraordinary and disgraceful statement by President Ahmadinejad on 26 October.

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