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9 Jan 2006 : Column 196W—continued

Russia (Missiles Sales)

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with the Government of Russia on the sale of missiles to Iran. [40588]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: We are in close touch with the Russians about Iran, both bilaterally and through the EU, and as part of the E3/EU. We have made clear our concerns about Russian arms sales to Iran in a number of recent exchanges at official level, including on 6, 9 and 13 December. The established policy of the EU is not to sell arms to Iran.
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Mr. Hunt: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what steps the Government are taking as chair of the UN Security Council towards a resolution of the conflict in Northern Uganda; and if he will make a statement; [38232]

(2) what discussions his Department has had with the Government of Uganda on the access of UK non-governmental organisations to the north of Uganda; [38233]

(3) how many (a) letters, (b) faxes and (c) emails his Department has received from members of the public about the conflict in Northern Uganda since 1 December; and if he will make a statement; [38234]

(4) what support the UK Government are giving the Government of Uganda to facilitate a peaceful solution to the conflict with the Lord's Resistance Army; and if he will make a statement. [38235]

Ian Pearson: Assisting in the resolution of the conflict in Northern Uganda, and addressing its humanitarian impact, are priorities for the Government. During the UK's presidency of the United Nations (UN) Security Council in December 2005, we invited Jan Egeland, the UN Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, to provide a briefing on humanitarian issues in Africa. This took place on 19 December and included the situation in Northern Uganda. A group of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have written to my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary advocating a UN Security Council Resolution. This has since been supplemented to date by correspondence from about 1,000 members of the public. We are currently considering their ideas and how we can most effectively continue to address the situation in Northern Uganda.

In our discussions with the Ugandan Government, we emphasise the need to bring peace to Northern Uganda, provide adequate protection for the people of the North and those NGOs and aid agencies working there, and encourage those Lord's Resistance Army members not indicted by the International Criminal Court to seek amnesty and reintegration into their communities.

The UK has also provided support for specific peace initiatives, including the recent mediation effort led by Betty Bigombe, a former Ugandan Minister. We provide practical help to the Ugandan Amnesty Commission, which is helping to reintegrate former combatants, and have also helped establish a local radio station, MEGA FM, which, through its programming, helps promote peace.

UK Embassies/Consulates

Mr. MacNeil: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many British (a) embassies and (b) consulates there are. [39863]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The United Kingdom has 102 embassies, 40 high commissions, and 76 consulates.

United States (Treatment of Prisoners)

David Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what
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representations his Department has made to the United States Administration about the amendment to the US 2006 Defence Appropriations Bill which would forbid the use of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment against any person in the custody of or controlled by the United States in any part of the world. [39315]

Dr. Howells: We welcome the recent agreement in the US to incorporate language into the Defence Appropriations Bill explicitly prohibiting the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by US personnel anywhere in the world. This sends a positive message that the US is committed to fighting terrorism while reaffirming its adherence to the rule of law and its respect for human rights. All forms of torture are of course strictly prohibited under US law and, as Secretary Rice and President Bush both recently clarified, this applies to all US personnel around the world.

We continue to engage fully and frankly with the US on these issues.

World Trade Organisation

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the EU's proposal for World Trade Organisation negotiations. [35753]

Ian Pearson: The European Commission is bound by a negotiating mandate granted by the Council of Ministers but has the freedom to determine strategy and tactics within the parameters of that mandate. The assessment of Her Majesty's Government is that the offers" tabled by the European Commission on 10 and 28 October are within the remit of the negotiating mandate.

Her Majesty's Government continues to give its full backing to Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson, in his conduct of the negotiations and is committed to achieving an ambitious, pro-development conclusion to the DDA by the end of 2006.

I refer the hon. Member to the Statement to the House made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on 20 December 2005.


Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on recent developments in Zimbabwe. [40617]

Ian Pearson: Zimbabweans continue to suffer from the failure of their government's policies: the economy is shrinking, inflation is over 500 per cent. and millions require international food aid. Six months after mass housing demolitions, many Zimbabweans remain homeless. Meanwhile, the November 2005 Senate elections have done nothing to restore democratic governance.

The Government have responded by: providing further humanitarian aid to Zimbabweans, £40 million in 2005; maintaining a firm EU approach; focusing United Nations Security Council attention on the
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matter; and pressing Zimbabwe's neighbours to address the continuing economic, humanitarian and political crisis created by the Government of Zimbabwe.

John Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of the safety and security of civilians in (a) Zimbabwe and (b) the Democratic Republic of Congo. [40556]

Ian Pearson: Zimbabweans continue to face politically motivated violence and intimidation perpetrated by the state. For instance, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Non-Governmental Organisations Forum estimates that there were 43 cases of assault in October 2005, most by the army or police. On 5 December, the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights adopted a resolution expressing concern about the human rights situation in Zimbabwe. This is available at

Years of conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), exacerbated by corruption, illegal exploitation of resources and the collapse of the state, have led to human rights abuses and a high level of crime. Security Sector Reform is one of the primary aims of the EU's support to the DRC transitional government. We hope that the political transition in the DRC will culminate in the election of a democratic government by mid-2006, which should provide the framework for sustained improvements in the security and human rights situation.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office website ( provides travel advice for Zimbabwe and the DRC, warning of the risks to travellers, and providing background information on the human rights situation.


Central Information Office

Mr. Heald: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many civil service persons are employed in the Central Information Office; and how many were employed in 1997. [39656]

Mr. Jim Murphy: At the end of November 2005 there were 646.7 full-time equivalent staff, including fixed term contract staff employed in the Central Office of Information.

The corresponding figure for 1997 (1996–97 outturn) was 500.8.

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