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Gaza-Egyptian Border

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of progress in opening the Gaza-Egyptian border following disengagement. [32738]

Dr. Howells: The Gaza-Egypt border opened on 25 November. This is a significant step forward for the Palestinians. My right hon. Friend, the Foreign Secretary, made a statement on the day of the opening:


Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Government of Iran following its threat not to continue with the construction of the Iran to India gas pipeline as a result of India's recent vote at the International Atomic Energy Agency. [32267]

Dr. Howells: According to media reports, both Indian and Iranian officials have reiterated their commitment to existing agreements on this pipeline, and a routine meeting of the India/Iran working group on the project was held in late October. We have not made representations to the Iranian Government.


Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many of the detainees held by multinational forces in Iraq are women; and if he will make a statement. [32736]

Dr. Howells: There are no women currently in Britishmilitary detention in Iraq. The United States Government have told us that they currently have approximately 11 females in detention in Iraq. The number varies with new detentions and the continuous process of review and release.
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Middle East

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the role of economic initiatives in aiding the development of the roadmap for peace in the Middle East. [32739]

Dr. Howells: The UK fully supports the efforts of Quartet Special Envoy James Wolfensohn to ensure that maximum benefit is derived from Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and part of the West Bank. This should promote growing confidence and trust between the parties and should pave the way for renewed implementation of the Roadmap.

A series of UK-led events will take place in December. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Gordon Brown), will host G7 Finance Ministers and European Finance Ministers meetings to discuss how donors can best support the work of James Wolfensohn. The UK will also host an investors' conference to discuss the role the private sector can play in reviving the Palestinian economy. In a separate event, key donors to the Palestinians will meet on 13 and 14 December to give their input to the Palestinian Three-Year Development Plan, to put the Palestinian economy on a sound footing and to pave the way for a Pledging Conference in the spring.

Nuclear Proliferation

Mr. Kilfoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what research he has commissioned on the effect of the UK's nuclear weapons status on nuclear proliferation. [32345]

Dr. Howells: The UK Government have not commissioned research into this specific area.

Mr. Kilfoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what steps he is taking (a) bilaterally and (b) multilaterally to ensure that progress is made on international agreement on non-proliferation. [32347]

Dr. Howells: We are disappointed that, it was not possible this year to reach a substantive outcome at the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference or to include non-proliferation language at the UN World Summit. We remain committed to achieving progress and to revitalising the global disarmament and non-proliferation machinery. Multilaterally, we continue to take an active role in the Conference on Disarmament, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organisation and the Nuclear Suppliers' Group, as well as participating in the Proliferation Security Initiative. We were co-sponsors of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 and continue to further the aims of that resolution. During our presidency of the EU we have worked to implement the EU's Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) Strategy.

The UK has been working in smaller groups, for example as one of the EU3 in negotiations aimed at persuading Iran to forgo certain nuclear activities in light of its non-compliance with international obligations. We are closely involved with the US in closing down the AQ Khan network and continue
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to support Libya's dismantlement of its WMD programme. As a member of the G8 we have committed $750 million over a period of 10 years to the Global Partnership which seeks to address the threat posed by the Cold War legacy of WMD related materials. Counter-proliferation is on the agenda of numerous bilateral exchanges with a wide range of countries.

Shared Representation

Chris Huhne: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in which countries the UK has shared representation; and what assessment he has made of the further potential for sharing representation. [32478]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: Wherever appropriate, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office shares office premises overseas with EU partners and, occasionally, with others. We are alert to opportunities to do so. We are already co-located with the following partners:


Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment the Government have made of compliance by Syria with United Nations Security Council Resolutions (a) 1559 and (b) 1595. [32737]

Dr. Howells: Syria completed the withdrawal of its troops from Lebanon on 26 April 2005, in compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1559. A United Nations (UN) verification team concluded that there are no Syrian military forces and is no visible or significant Syrian intelligence presence or activity in Lebanon, although the possibility remains of an ongoing influence of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon.

We are concerned by the reference in Special Envoy Larsen's report on 25 October 2005 of the illegal transfer of arms and people across the Syrian-Lebanese border. We urge Syria to refrain from interfering in Lebanese affairs and to work with Lebanon to ensure the full implementation of UNSCR 1559.

Syria's lack of substantive co-operation has hindered the UN International Independent Investigation Commission mandated by UNSCR 1595. As a result, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted UNSCR 1636, which requires Syria to improve its co-operation and allows for sanctions against those individuals accused by the ongoing investigation. We note the UN announcement on 25 November that agreement has been reached between Mr. Mehlis and the Syrian Government over the venue for the questioning of five Syrian interviewees. UNSCR 1636 requests Mr. Mehlis to report on progress to the UN Security Council by 15 December 2005.
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